By Jonny Lupsha, Current Events Writer
Nandi Bushell, 11, recently drummed for Foo Fighters at The Forum in Los Angeles. The band arranged for her to help them close out their set in front of a crowd of several thousand people, after being inspired by her love of music. How do kids build self-esteem?
The Grammy-winning rock band Foo Fighters closed out their live performance at The Forum in Los Angeles on August 26 with a surprise guest. Nandi Bushell, an 11-year-old drummer whose online videos included her covering songs by singer and guitarist Dave Grohl’s current and former bands, replaced usual Foo drummer Taylor Hawkins to end the night with a rendition of the band’s smash hit “Everlong.” After Grohl introduced her, thousands of fans chanted her name before they played the song.
Bushell became a sensation last year when she challenged Grohl to a drum duel, which he accepted and graciously conceded. How can children build Bushell’s kind of self-esteem? In her video series Raising Emotionally and Socially Healthy Kids, Dr. Eileen Kennedy-Moore, author and clinical psychologist, said self-esteem involves two components: competence and worthiness.
“False praise can’t create authentic self-esteem,” Dr. Kennedy-Moore said. “A true sense of competence can’t be given; it has to be earned. To contribute to self-esteem, competence needs to be in an area that the person considers valuable. Competence and worthiness are interconnected in self-esteem; we want to be competent in worthy areas.”
Dr. Kennedy-Moore said that in order to feel proud of themselves, kids need to see that their parents are proud of them. That way, they learn to predict which behaviors will make their parents proud—and by age seven or eight, they can internalize their parents’ standards so they can feel proud of themselves even in their parents’ absence. Of course, it’s important for parents to set attainable expectations so the children don’t feel like they’re only alive to please their parents.
“Older children are often reluctant to do activities where they’re not instantly successful,” Dr. Kennedy-Moore said. “To develop real confidence, kids need to be able to keep going, to persist when things aren’t easy or outcomes aren’t as good as they’d hoped.”
Parents can help kids stick with a difficult task by resisting the urge to rush in and help when the child has just begun to struggle with a task. Additionally, it can help to praise the child’s efforts, rather than their ability. Telling them “You must have worked really hard on this” encourages them to continue trying, while praise like “You must be really smart to do this” subconsciously makes them want to keep their reputation and not try again, lest they risk failure.
“Worthiness has to do with a sense of being a good and lovable person,” Dr. Kennedy-Moore said. “Worthiness is about values; our beliefs about what is right, what is important.”
In order to help foster worthiness in a child, Dr. Kennedy-Moore said parents need to maintain a sensitive awareness that their children both want and need the parents’ acceptance and approval. That must be balanced with the teaching of values.
While parents can teach their children what’s important, they shouldn’t shame the kids. Allowing them opportunities to make amends when they make a mistake—apologizing, cleaning up a mess, and so on—and starting each day with a clean slate can go a long way. It can also help to support their interests, respect their opinions, and acknowledge their feelings.
With authentic self-esteem, a child can realize their potential. One day they may even play drums at The Forum with one of the biggest rock bands on the planet.