I recently read a proposal for an initiative to reduce teen pregnancy. The people were very earnest, but it isn't going to work like they hope it will. Why? Because they were on the right track, but in the wrong station. They proposed increasing self esteem in teens as an antidote against early and unprotected sex.
That's too late.
They should be starting around age two. Not with sex education, but with real opportunities to develop self esteem. Because it isn't something you can give. You can't compliment and praise a person into self esteem. The overblown sense of their own superiority that comes from excessive, baseless compliments is not self esteem.
To gain self esteem, a child must do something. Must work at something. Preferably, the child will fail at first attempt, then get it on the second. Because self esteem is essentially just having confidence in yourself. Confident that you can figure things out and accomplish things on your own. That you are capable.
Trying to start instilling self esteem in the teen years is a good thing, children should be met where they are with the help they need. But if we are serious about intervening in the cycles of teen pregnancy and poverty, then we need to start at the beginning.
Ask any child development specialist and they will tell you that the first three years of life are the most important. It is there that intellectual, emotional and physical capacities will be set. What a child gets - love, support, validation, education, nutrition, freedom to explore - or doesn't get will impact the growing brain and developing social skills, most likely for life. It's the rare individual who comes out of a neglectful situation and rises above it. Most are just repeating the cycle.
We, as a nation, will never solve the problems of teen pregnancy, crime, education drop outs, child abuse, and cycles of poverty until we get serious about those first three years of life.
My fantasy? The Nurse-Family Partnership fully funded and staffed in every county and offered to every pregnant woman who wants it, not just first time Medicaid mothers.
We'd put ourselves out of business within 20 years.
Just saying, when all you public officials get tired of chasing your tails around in circles, pouring money into programs that don't work, that in fact, make things worse, why don't you take a gander at the across the board success of the Nurse Family Partnership.
Loki sez: Look, she's trying to be all reasonable again.
Thor sez: Just look like you're listening.