Not long after the car made its way to Kayte’s driveway, her entourage of sixteen year old friends came calling. Their responses were mixed:

Wow! How will you know what to do?”

“I’ve got a Chilton’s manual. And, I can read!” (As if she’d been reading Chilton’s manuals her entire life…rather than just having learned of them)

“Omigosh! This is a WRECK!”

“You’re just jealous!”

“Cool…can I come over and help?”

“Sure…but be prepared to sweat! (Some came to watch but really none helped until it came time to paint)

“When can we take a ride? When will you be done?”

“I have NO idea!”

“Can I help paint it?”

“Sure but I have to do the body work first. I’ll let you know!”

And finally, someone asked, “What are you going to name it?”

Kayte reflected a minute… then replied, “Nimbus Maximus. For the huge cloud of smoke which he let forth the first time I saw him! I’ll call him ‘Nimby’ for short!” Long before she heard the acronym, NIMBY (stands for “not in my back yard,” an environmental protest expression), Kayte’s little bunged up bug had fans, a name, and growing affection.

Teens often live suspended somewhere between childhood and adulthood for way too long. Learning to do real work, whether it’s body work on a car, mowing a lawn, repairing computers, or cooking feels great to them. It is a subtle reassurance that they are making headway toward becoming productive adults. The admiration of Kayte’s peers for what she was doing was palpable, yet another way in which she was growing.

Hardly a week goes by in my coaching practice that a parent doesn’t ask me how to improve their teen’s self esteem. I often quip that nothing makes you feel worthwhile like a pay check! But the truth is, it isn’t about the money so much as the feeling of growing competency, recognition that you can contribute to the adult world in a meaningful way.

If you want to help your kid’s self esteem, teach them to do something they can get paid to do. Then encourage them to do it (by not giving them too much allowance!).