I want to share three studies I’ve read about kids.

Study #1: Researchers found that about 80% of children in kindergarten have healthy self-esteem. For 12thgraders, only 5% have healthy self-esteem.

Study #2: Researchers gave a number of essays to a large number of teachers and asked the teachers to grade them. A student’s picture was attached to each essay. But without the teacher’s knowledge, the researchers switched some of the pictures so that half of the essays had a picture of a very nice-looking child, while the other half had pictures of less handsome children. But it was exactly the same essay! The results: the essays with very nice-looking children received, on average, a grade that was one letter higher than the less handsome children—even though it was the same essay.

Study #3: Researchers found that little children laugh, on average, about 300 times a day. Adults? Only about fifteen times a day.

Now, I’m leery of drawing too many hard and fast conclusions from studies like these. But I do think the results are at least worth thinking about. Don’t you?

Here’s what I thought about.

  • We should all think harder about what healthy self-esteem is and how it can be strengthened and maintained in children. And I don’t mean simply saying, “You’re great!” to kids all the time. There are plenty of books that provide real, helpful insights into this, including “Building Self-Esteem In Children” by Sandra Berne.
  • We should at least be aware of the very human tendency to “judge a book by its cover” when it comes to kids. The cuter kids get more and better attention.
  • We should think hard about the importance of joy in life. Personally, I think joy is the point of work, the point of study, the point of relationships. It’s not the icing on the cake of life, it is the cake. Kids need to see grownups who are models of enjoying work, enjoying relationships, enjoying learning, even enjoying the small moments and challenges of everyday life.

Someone has said that one of our purposes in life is to help make the world a more welcoming place for children. We can do that by (a) doing some real thinking about how to nurture self-esteem in kids, (b) Trying to not judge kids by appearances, and (c) Affirming the importance of joyfulness in life and in all things.

The better we do these things, the better we’ll help kids to actually “grow upwards” rather than “growing down.”