A measure of self-esteem is the quality of the key relationships in a person’s life – how well they are working for them.  If a child’s self-esteem is low, the first place I would look is the relationship with siblings and mom and dad.

Self-esteem is the gas in the engine.  If self esteem is high, then a person tends to be vibrating at a higher rate – and thus, if you subscribe to the LAW of ATTRACTION or the Secret, then LIKE attracts LIKE.

So let’s cut to the chase.  The better you feel about yourself and your control over your own life, the better off you are, Simple right.. The worse you feel and the less control you feel you have over your life, then the lower your self-esteem.  So what does this mean as a Dad?

Well, I want to share with you a theory for self-esteem that is so simple and brilliant; I would love to take credit for it.  But Richard Lavoie, a national expert on learning disabilities, penned “When the Chips are Down” – what I like to call the POKER CHIP theory.

In front of all of us, there are poker chips.  Some have giant piles of poker chips in front – self-esteem oozes from every pore – these people are unstoppable winners.  For others, they may have 1 or 2 piles in front of them

Watch any World Series of Poker and it is pretty easy to see what happens when big stacks meets a short stack.  The big stack throws his weight around.  The short stack is cautious and timid.  So in life, there are big stacks and little stacks… we have stacks of poker chips, our friends have stacks, and perhaps most importantly, our children have stacks of poker chips.

Every morning they awake, pick up their stacks and head down stairs to the breakfast table.  But a sibling quarrels robs some chips from their stacks.  Bullying on the school bus depletes 3 stacks and by the time your child reaches his desk, he is down 4 stacks.  Now he only woke up with 7 stacks, so he is down to 3 stacks to last an entire day.

School begins and the teacher poses a question to the class.  Your son thinks he knows the answer, but he chooses to not answer.  He cannot risk a wrong answer and the loss of more chips.  Johnny Bravo, the coolest and most popular kid in the class volunteers an  answer.  His answer is wrong, the class laughs, and Johnny loses a stack of poker chips.  The answer turns out to be the answer your son knew – what a lost opportunity – a chance to rebuild his chip stack.  Nothing ventured, nothing lost to the short stack.

But Johnny took a hit, but don’t pity Johnny.  He came to school with more stacks than most of the boys combined!  And that stack that he lost for his hilarious and wrong answer – well, he’ll make that back in no time.  In gym class, he scrambles to the top of the rope in record time – the only boy to make it to the top – well, he has regained his chip count and then some!

I will paraphrase another example that Richard Lavoie uses – one that hits hard.

Larry, a child with special needs, gets up early.  He chooses to wear his favourite Beavis and Butthead t-shirt, even though his moms hates it, she doesn’t object.  Poker chip stack increases.  She cooks him his favourite breakfast, French Toast – more poker chips.  His older brother has made him a CD of his favourite songs that he listens to with his new earphones while waiting for the bus – more and more poker chips.  Larry is feeling great this morning; his chip count is higher than ever.  He is enjoying himself so much that he doesn’t notice the school bus has arrived.  He is startled by a nudge, he removes his earphones to hear, “hurry up retard!”  BANG – all the chips are gone and it’s only 8:15am…

Our job as loving fathers and mothers is to make sure our children go to bed each night with more chips then they woke up with.   Look for your children’s STRENGTHS – their “islands of competence” – focus your attention HERE!

There are plenty of people in our children’s lives that will take chips from them.  We cannot be one of THEM.  We need to be an unconditional source of encouragement and positivity for them.     Be aware that there are also plenty of people in our children’s lives that GIVE chips to our children.  Teachers, coaches, and babysitters are all marvelous sources – but we need to be vigilant.  Always on the lookout for the chip stealers…

So go ALL-IN and raise the stakes and self-esteem for your children!