As parents, we want our kids to grow up confident, with an amazing sense of self-worth, a whole lot of resilience and respect for others, and the world around them. As adults, we know persistence and tenacity are important traits when the going becomes tough.
Children are a blank slate when they are born. It is a scary thought, but in the early years, children may well become what adults tell them they are. The child who is told they are stupid and worthless will believe that is what they are. A child who is nurtured to believe in him or herself, encouraged to take risks and is continually reinforced for their efforts with positive affirmations and respect, will most likely develop a strong belief in him or herself and their capabilities.
And yes, as they grow, their peers and teachers will and do influence their sense of self, but we can only hope the positive foundations we have nurtured are solidly in place. Here are 10 tips to empower kids so they can develop into confident, happy, respectful, well-adjusted and resilient teenagers and adults.
1. Give your child choice.
From a young age, encourage your child to make decisions that directly relate to them. For example, allow your child to choose between cereal or toast for breakfast; the red, pink, blue or green toothbrush; the orange T-shirt or the striped T-shirt. Choosing their own outfits is always interesting! Choice and voice go together. Allowing your child choice gives them a voice in what directly relates to them and their daily life.
2. Listen to your child.
Not only listen to your child’s voice but note their moods and listen for what is NOT being said. When you ask your child how they are after school, REALLY ask them how they are. Stop what your are doing and engage. Find out what may be upsetting them or what may be giving them joy. Ensure nothing is off the table and ensure your child can tell you or ask you about anything. And if you child doesn’t like someone or doesn’t wish to go with a certain person, listen. I don’t wish to scare you unnecessarily, but this is one of the signs a child may indirectly provide if they are being sexually abused.
3. Teach your child Body Safety.
There is nothing more empowering than teaching your child age-appropriate Body Safety Education. Providing children with knowledge about their personal boundaries and their rights is incredibly empowering. A child educated in Body Safety knows to tell if they are touched inappropriately, and they are far less likely to become a victim of a sexual abuse.
4. Allow your child to take risks.
Trust your child to explore their environment and this means taking risks. If possible, try to stop yourself reaching out. Trust your child to climb that tree, go down that big slide and swim a lap alone. Risking on purpose is important for your child to develop self-confidence. Hold yourself back, not your child, and allow them to explore their world.
5. Use your words wisely.
Encourage your child’s endeavors with words such as smart, amazing, strong, creative, talented, etc. Particularly with daughters — try not to focus on their physical appearance and focus on their talents and creative pursuits. When in “discussions” with older kids, remember what has been said can’t be unsaid. As you child drifts off to sleep, whisper something positive about the day’s activities that relates directly to them. Going to sleep feeling positive, loved and safe is empowering!
6. Encourage your child to follow their interests.
Your child’s interests may not always be your interests but if your child loves to dance or play football than be as supportive and encouraging as you can. I know! This should go without saying!
7. Allow your child to greet others in a way they are comfortable with.
When greeting relatives or friends allow your child to greet others with a high five or a hand-shake if they don’t wish to be hugged or kissed. Just because your child is a child doesn’t mean they should be forced to show affection. This only gives them the message that their wishes don’t matter. Your child should give hugs and kisses willingly, and all adults and other children need to respect this.
8. Discourage gender stereotyping.
Encourage your child to believe he or she can strive to be or do anything they set their heart toward. Discourage gender stereotyping and do not become a party to the media’s continual bombardment. Once you see gender stereotyping in our interactions with others you can’t un-see it. Respect all genders, see only equality and model this to your kids.
9. Encourage perseverance, resilience and integrity
Life is not always easy, so encourage your child to try and keep on trying until they succeed or come close to it! I must admit I am a bit of a trier and it has held me in good stead. Encourage and model perseverance, resilience and integrity through daily activities and conversations.
10. Teach your child the “pirate stance”!
This a fun activity but actually an empowering one! Have your child stand for 30 seconds like a pirate a couple of times a week. Have them place their hands on their hips, their legs slightly apart and their shoulders back. Research tells us this stance is incredibly empowering; particularly for girls. Give it a try yourself!
In summary, the most empowering thing you can do for your child is to trust them, show and model respect towards them, and encourage them in all they choose to do!