It can be hard to remember what it was like to be a little kid. If we consider the experience purely from a size perspective alone, we might be able to remember somewhat. Just the fact that the world is built for adults; chairs, drinking fountains, public bathroom stalls, the checkout counter; the world can be immense and overwhelming from a child-size perspective.
Finding ways to help empower our children helps them to not only navigate the obvious challenges of being a child, but it will also helps them to navigate the less noticeable. Like the moments when their own newly budding sense of self is questioned or they are faced with standing up for what they know is right.
Here are five ways to help empower your child:
Listen – Sometimes as parents we forget to listen. We are so busy and we are also so used to solving problems, but sometimes the best line of action is to listen. When we listen we demonstrate that what our kids have to say is of value, and that their voices matters.
Acknowledge – Listening and acknowledging are two very different actions. They are not the same thing, but I do believe they go together. When your child is sharing something with you, listening is the first step. We sit attentively and we hear what he has to say. Acknowledging is the next step. It can be as simple as ‘I’m sorry to hear that happened.’ Sometimes we, all of us, just need to be heard and acknowledged. Other times we need some insight or help. With our kids, Listen, acknowledge and in many cases, ask if they want your thoughts. When your child knows that she can come to you with an experience and won’t get a laundry list of ‘what to do’ or given marching orders on how to respond, it will help her to gain a stronger sense of self and for her to develop her own voice.
Respect Choices – It can be so difficult to let our kids make their own choices. Whether it’s your 3-year-old’s outfit she’s put together, or it’s your 10-year-olds decision to give up the drums; there are some choices that we just have to let our children make. As parents we need to have a mental checklist of what’s essential, which choices are non-negotiable, but after that we do need to find a way to let our kids shape their own lives. We also need to recognize that the types of choices will change as our children age. We have to remember to let our kids grow up. We can share our thoughts about why we would or would not make certain choices, but giving our kids the room to explore, to see what works and what doesn’t work all help to teach your child about living life. And after we make room for our kids’ choices, we also need to be standing by to help out if the choice doesn’t work out the way they had hoped. Things that I don’t quibble about –hair styles, clothing choices, certain words like ‘dude’ (although when he called his Dad ‘dude’ that was corrected) and ‘, how he spends his time (as long as I see balance).
Self-Validate – This should probably be at the top of the list. It is by far, in my opinion, the best tool to share with your child. When we can know from within that we matter, when we don’t need someone else or something else to confirm that belief, we are truly self-empowered. Anyone at any age can learn to self-validate, and yes, I believe we can start sharing this gift with infants. When a child does something great, our response is to say ‘that’s great, I’m so proud of you’, but by simply shifting the words to ‘that’s great, are you proud of yourself?’ you create a completely different dynamic. Instead of the moment being about you, it is about your child. I do believe it is oh-so- important to express our own celebration of our child’s accomplishments, but not in absence of teaching them to feel proud of themselves.
Encourage and Support – Encourage and support your child in discovering who they are. Help them explore likes and dislikes, help them to take risks that will move them beyond what they know. Be your child’s greatest champion in life and help them to become strong, certain and above-all-else, unique individuals.
As I was writing this I was reminded of a moment when Caidin was four. His Dad had said something to him and Caidin came to me and said ‘I don’t like that my Dad said this.’ I heard him, acknowledged him and responded with ‘I understand, but telling me won’t change anything. You might want to let your Dad know.’ Now the size disparity between Caidin and my husband was huge. I watched little tiny four-year-old Caidin walk up to his towering Dad and say ‘I don’t like that you said that to me.’ Chuck listened, acknowledged him and then told him why he had said what he said, and that was that. They hugged and both went back to whatever they were doing. In that one simple moment Caidin learned that his voice mattered. He wasn’t told he was right, his Dad didn’t apologize, but in the ability to say what he needed to say and to receive a response, he learned ‘my voice matters.’
Today I watch Caidin speak up for himself in ways that I never could, and he does it from a place of confidence rather than defense. He knows that it is his right to speak-up.
These five tips can help to foster a kind of certainty and confidence that will benefit your child today and beyond.
Help your child to be self-empowered, it is a lifelong gift.
© 2012 Christine Agro
Christine Agro is a clairvoyant, naturopath, Master Herbalist, conscious mom and author of 50 Ways to Live Life Consciously as well as of The Conscious Living Wisdom Cards (Special Moms’ Edition). Christine is founder of The Conscious Mom’s Guide, a membership site where she helps support you on your own journey of living life consciously and on your journey of being a Conscious parent. You can also join Christine on Facebook. To contact Christine or to schedule an appointment with her please email her.