5 REASONS TO EMPOWER CHILDREN, AND 10 WAYS TO DO IT! 💪🏼
Whether you’re a parent or you work with children, we all want the best outcomes for children. We want to see these young people flourish and reach their full potential. We want them to grow up to be confident, to believe in themselves and to dare to follow their dreams. So how do we empower kids and help them feel like the amazing humans we know they are? And how do we help them follow their own path to become the amazing grown ups we know they can be?
Of course there are countless factors to consider in children’s lives, but today we’re going to explore one particularly powerful element that can have an impact; EMPOWERMENT!
🤜🏼 WHAT IS EMPOWERMENT?
The Oxford Dictionary defines empowerment as “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights”. To empower children is to guide them to feel valued, capable and to realise they play the role of creator in their own lives and futures. It doesn’t mean children should have a say over everything – of course, children must still learn to work within rules and guidelines set by authorities, teachers, parents and so on.
What we do want is for young people to make informed choices for themselves, to feel confident in defending themselves of needed, and to identify and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. It’s all about giving children the opportunity to engage with the world around them in a meaningful way.
🤜🏼 WHY WE SHOULD EMPOWER CHILDREN
1. Grow confidence and self-esteem
Confidence and self-esteem enables children to feel happy and comfortable with who they are, as well as try new things. They are more likely to manage their own behaviour.
2. Encourage independence
Allowing children to have a say in their lives and make choices that affect them helps them to be independent.
3. Build resilience
Empowerment is a key factor in building resilience, which enables children to bounce back from whatever life throws their way.
4. Develop self-respect
When children understand that they are powerful creators in their own worlds, they develop a sense of self-respect. Self-respect enables children to better respect and value others. It also helps them recognise their own value and therefore the need to ensure their own safety in the big, bad world.
5. Make them better learners
A confident, independent child has the best chance of being an effective learner and shaping a fantastic future for themselves.
🤜🏼 HOW TO EMPOWER CHILDREN
1. Give them choice
Life is full of choices and decisions. In the early years you will make many of your child’s choices for them. As they grow up though, you can encourage your child to think and choose for themselves. You will be giving them an empowering skill to build self confidence if you give them control over their environment. As your child grows older there are plenty of opportunities to do this.
Whenever they choose what to wear, what to play with and what to eat, they are developing choice-making skills. One of the first skills you can teach them is how to share. If you do this by giving them a choice, it can be more empowering.
For example, instead of saying ‘Share your toys with your sibling/friend’ you could ask ‘Do you want to share your car or your truck?’ By giving them choice rather than a blanket demand, you are giving them more control.
2. Listen to them
There’s nothing more reassuring than having your views and feelings heard. Ask your child about their day and truly listen to what they say. Pick a time when you are not busy. Remove any distractions and really hear your child. If they tell you about any worries or any negative emotions then try to resist the urge to jump in and try and fix them. Let them talk. And listen.
If your child feels that they can talk to you about anything, without you flying off the handle or spinning into a sea of worry, then they will feel more supported, and their confidence will grow. It will also mean they have the courage to go to you in potentially dangerous situations, such as if they are being targeted by a predator who has threatened them if they “tell mum or dad.”
3. Let them take risks
This one is easier said than done. It’s natural that, as parents, we want to protect and shield our children from every bad thing that life can throw at them. But we all learn by making mistakes, by getting things wrong and by figuring out how best to do things by trial and error.
So take a deep breath and let your child fly free on occasion and sometimes flounder or fall. You’re always there to pick up the pieces and help them figure out what went wrong and how they can do things better the next time.
It’s scary, but if you can let go of the apron strings and let your child explore and learn, then you are helping them learn vital life lessons. If they equipped with strong self defence skills it’s a little less scary, but no less important.
4. Let them dream
It’s pretty hard not to wade in and explain to your child why they probably won’t become a professional footballer or win the X Factor, but try to bite your tongue and let them dream.
If every parent of every talented child poo-poohed their child’s dreams then no-one would ever have made it. Children will go through a whole heap of lofty ambitions and desires. You can let them know they can be whoever they want to be and do whatever they want to do as long as they work hard and believe in themselves.
Who knows where so much early ambition and enthusiasm may take them? Be your child’s loudest cheerleader and help them realise their dreams. If they find that they fade somewhere along the path then let them know that’s OK too, and there are plenty of other avenues to follow. After all, if you don’t try, you will never succeed.
5. Speak positively about them
Make it your mission to always speak positively about your child. Try not to label them as ‘the messy one’ or ‘the shy one’, both when you are speaking to them and about them. If we consistently tell our children they are smart, capable and determined they will come to believe it.
Of course, nobody’s perfect but if you praise your child for their efforts, their bravery and their resilience, then they will feel empowered to stand up for themselves and to pick themselves back up whenever they stumble. And when they are grumpy or make mistakes always let them know that you love them no matter what.
6. Show them it’s the little things in life
Life can be busy and can throw up some pretty big hurdles and stresses along the way. Teach your child to place value in the little things that make each day better.
Take a moment to look up at the clouds or to feel the sunshine on your face. Look down and spy the tiny ladybird on the leaf or the dewy cobweb in the hedge. Sit down together over teatime and talk about the day. If it’s been full of struggles, then listen but also try to find out the little bits that made it bearable. Ask if anything funny happened or if anyone did anything silly. Or scoop your child up and head out on an impromptu adventure together to eat ice creams on the beach (even in winter) or go on a torch light walk.
7. Tell them that they are enough
More than ever before we live in a society that has everyone believing they need more and need to be more to be loved, valued and accepted.
With the rise of social media, it’s easy for our children to feel like they can never live up to the picture perfect ideals they see. This can also make them more prone to fall victim to predators and grooming.
Talk to your children about how the things we see on social media are not a true representation of real life. Help them recognise that they are enough. Nobody is perfect and being enough is actually a pretty good thing. Teaching them this can help them to stay confident and safe throughout their life.
8. Treasure the happy moments
There are so many little moments and small achievements in our children’s day-to-day lives that are worth remembering and holding on to.
A nice way to do this is to start a family happiness jar. Find and decorate a large jar and fill it with little slips of paper. Each time your child has a proud moment at school or you have a happy moment as a family write it down, date it and pop in in the jar.
Include little things as well as bigger achievements and events. Happiness jars are amazing for your child to sit down and look through every now and then. Reading about all the good moments can help them appreciate the great things around them and what they have achieved.
9. Help them learn self defence
Being able to protect yourself from harm is a skill that all people should have and its important that we don’t dismiss a child's need for this skill. With bullying becoming more and more prevalent in schools, it’s not just creepy adults that kids these days need to contend with so its important our kids can defend themselves if the need arises.
Just a boost in confidence can have a person walk more upright and look like less of a target to a bully or attacker. This means they can avoid the fight before it starts.
10. Give them the gift and protection of love
With the news full of frightening stories of child abuse, horrific kidnappings, disgusting molestation and sickening paedophilia, it is easy to feel helpless as a parent in this big bad world with the innocent little people we love so much. So here is a little good news: your love goes a long way.
One of the most common lures used by child molesters relies on an absence of love.
Known as the Affection Lure, it is used both offline and online to exploit unsuspecting youngsters in need of love and attention. Here, victims of abuse are befriended and "groomed" over a period of hours, days, weeks, months, or years. Child molesters have repeatedly admitted: When there's a physically or emotionally absent parent in the picture, it makes the child more vulnerable to grooming and abuse.
So today - and every day! - give your child all the love and attention you can. An extra hug, a kiss on the cheek, plenty of high-5's! Tell them as much as you can how much they mean to you, show them you mean it with your time, and don't rush that cuddle at bedtime. It may be the best protection you will ever give 🤗
For more from COBRA Sunshine Coast, or for information on our upcoming Children’s and Women’s Safety and Self Defence courses, please like and follow. Because one is too many.