Ask any parent what they want most for their child when they are grown-up the answer is simple: we just want them to be happy.
We want them to grow up to be confident, to believe in themselves and to dare to follow their dreams. 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?
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.
So 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.
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.
Let them take risks
This one is easier said than done. Its 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.
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.
Stand like a superhero
Simple yoga poses can be very empowering.
Children can become very disconnected from their bodies and the world around them. Simple poses can be a great way of helping them notice how they feel, what parts of their bodies are touching the ground and to help them pause, breathe and look at things in a new way.
Try the Superhero or Pirate stance where your child stands with their legs slightly apart, their shoulders back and their hands on their hips.
A recent study showed that standing in the Superhero pose for 30 seconds, made both children and adults feel and act more empowered. The change was even physiological with testosterone levels (a hormone associated with power) going up and cortisol levels (a hormone associated with stress) going down! They subsequently felt more confident to take on any challenge.
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 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.
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.
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. Talk to them 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 throughout their life.
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.