“Instead of raising children who turn out okay despite their childhood, let’s raise children who turn out extraordinary because of their childhood.” --- L.R. Knost
Much has been written about empowering kids. What does that even mean? Empowering children?
Parents tell us, “I tell my kids what to do and when to do it. That’s good enough. Mostly because that’s all the time I have to spare.”
But when you really get down to it, are you really saving minutes? Or wasting precious years?
Let’s face it, we’re all busy and under pressure in terms of time and often money. It’s very, very easy to feel short-tempered and anxious. So the thinking goes, in the long run, isn’t it better to prepare kids for the harsh realities of life?
Here’s another way to look at it. Communicating with children in an empowering way fosters their self-esteem. But it means taking a long-term point of view.
Small children are still developing their physiology. This means the pathways crisscrossing their developing brains are still being built. They’re still being influenced by situations and, importantly, voices that they encounter throughout their day.
Which means when they associate tasks, settings or a particular time of day with pleasure, they’re naturally drawn to those tasks, settings, or particular times of day. Because they associate those experiences with positive thoughts and concepts.
Mouse. Cheese. Happy.
And conversely, if they associate those situations with your anger, your disapproval, your scorn or your neglect, they’ll feel sad and upset.
Mouse. Pain. Scared. Possibly for the rest of its life.
So depending on the type of pathways being built in their brain while they’re young, they’ll either have a positive, relaxed and trusting outlook, or a paranoid, anxious and untrusting outlook, often feeling like a victim or out-of-control.
Since those crucially vital pathways are still forming during childhood, it’s particularly important for children to associate core learning experiences positively. If they know you believe in them, they’ll grow up to feel brave. If they know you’re there for them to help them think things through, they’ll grow up to be analytical. If they know you’ll support them if they fail, they’ll try, try, again.
Basically, you become their champion in all endeavors. You empower them.
Equally important, the positive tone is set for life. As adults, they’ll feel the same way about mornings and preparing for work as they were empowered to feel in their childhood getting ready for school or soccer practice or music lessons.
The message here is enormous.
When you stop to realize your tone will have a lifelong effect on how the physiology of your child will develop, it becomes incredibly significant. You can raise your child to feel stressed when certain situations arise. Or you can raise them to feel strong and eager to meet a new challenge.
Very simply, your behavior as a parent influences your child’s attitude throughout their life.
Unfortunately, poor parenting behavior can result in kids needing cognitive-behavioral therapy at some point in their lives to unlearn the effects of our outbursts, neglect or negativity. Better not to teach them things they have to unlearn later after the pain is too great.
Equally important, empowering kids to be the best they can be instills confidence. If we take the time and thereby show them they’re important to us, they’ll grow up to be confident in themselves.
Conversely, if we’re short with them, brisk --- or even worse, neglect or entirely ignore them --- they’ll feel timid and full of doubt. They may not feel they matter to us, and therefore to the world around them.
As parents, we have a choice to bring only the best behaviors to our personal parenting style. When we nurture our kids, when we pay attention to their wants and needs, when we communicate with them and teach them to rationally assess a situation for the path to the best possible outcome, we set them up for life.
Oh, they’ll still face their challenges. We all face challenges of varying degrees each and every day. The key is that an empowered child will have a lifelong advantage over a child that is neglected or treated harshly.
Our words and actions have a lifelong impact on our children. Let’s choose to raise empowered children. Better for them. Better for the world they’ll live in.