As parents, we want our children to grow up confident, with an amazing sense of self-worth, resilience, and respect for themselves, as well as the world around them. The truth is, there is an inner superhero in all of us. We are born with unique strengths and capabilities that might not be uncovered if we lack the empowerment and support of our loved ones. But what does it mean to be empowered? And, how do we empower our little ones?
Empowerment is a process of instilling a positive inner confidence that is solid enough to overcome the perpetual challenges of an increasingly competitive world. It enables a child to grow in strength and grab hold of his or her “greatness”. To empower children is to guide them to feel valued, capable and to realize they play the role of creator in their own lives and destinies.
All children look for affirmation that they can become their own super hero. It is why 3-year old Jack wears a bright, flowing cape; 5-year old Molly loves to dance around the living room in her sparkly tiara; and 7-year old Thomas loves his Braves tee shirt with ball cap and oversized baseball glove. When mom and dad applaud, when they signal it can all become real, dreams begin to actualize. When parents become encouragers, they participate in the dream building, image forming, and character strengthening process. The same children who were once knee-high toddlers, looking up into a world where everything was big and imposing, begin redefining their self-worth and coping skills. So much of the “where do I fit?” anxiety can be replaced by positive encouragement and affirmation. A child who is nurtured to believe in him or herself, encouraged to take risks and is continually affirmed, will most likely develop a strong belief in him or herself and their capabilities. They will see the best of themselves…and confidently wear their cape.
Ways to Unleash Your Child’s Inner Superhero:
- Highlight their strengths.Compliment their hard work, positive behavior and achievements. Acknowledge within yourself and to your child that they are doing their best. Highlighting their display of achievements whether big or small is monumental for your child’s development.
- Teach with positive reinforcements.Remember rewarding with praise often leads to more positive behavior and increases in self-esteem. Pinpointing negative behavior can reduce negative behavior, but it probably doesn’t increase positive behavior.
- Embrace their uniqueness. Allow your child to be special by expressing themselves through their interests. They may find a creative outlet in theatre, dancing or art, or they may be exceptionally talented in the sciences. Encourage them to embrace what they like to do, what interests them, and what makes them happy. Help them realize that they don’t need to worry about being like everyone else.
- Celebrate their accomplishments. Finding the best time for a “celebration” may seem impossible or even get forgotten in the chaos of a week. That’s why it is important to acknowledge an accomplishment as soon as possible. Create an accomplishment box where you can celebrate both big and small successes in four areas: school, home, social skills, and activities. Click here to learn how to create an accomplishment box:
- Provide encouragement. Encourage them to see themselves as they are. Remember that words are powerful, and children are like sponges; they soak up everything you say or do. Your words of criticism, just like encouragement, can have a major impact on children. Consider the words you use and chose them carefully.
- Mirroring.When we mirror, we are reflecting our own confidence in their abilities and potential back to them. For example, when we see a child interested in music, we may talk with them about how great it is to see their skills improve with every song they play.
- Provide your child with choices.Give children choices within a reasonable set of options preselected by you. For example, at breakfast you might offer your child the option of eggs or pancake; or in the evening you might offer whether they would like to take a bath before dinner or after dinner. Learning to make choices when your child is young will help them make more difficult choices when they are older.
- Allow your child to problem solve. As parents, we love seeing our kids succeed, and it’s often difficult to watch them struggle. But, resist the temptation to rescue your child when she’s having a hard time with a task. Give your child opportunities to face problems and solve them. Children can become frustrated when parents try to offer a solution too quickly, especially when it doesn’t feel right for that problem. Instead, help them walk through the problem-solving steps. Offer guidance when they need assistance but encourage them to solve problems on their own.
Finally, as a parent, you can help unleash your child’s inner superhero by nurturing his strength, building her confidence, finding their uniqueness, being a real-life hero, and encouraging them in all that they choose to do!