Written by: Jenny Smith
Do you dream of raising powerful children? Well most parents rightly wish for their children to grow into confident, healthy and happy adults and whilst life can throw some big challenges along the way there are things that you can do to increase the chances of them learning to skilfully navigate ups and downs whilst retaining a strong sense of themselves as they grow up.
An atmosphere of acceptance is fundamental for self-esteem and confidence to flourish. Your children are unique people with their own personalities, their own tastes and opinions who look to you, particularly when young, for affirmation of who they essentially are. Within a family where there is more than one child it can be easy to create subtle messages of certain attributes and qualities being more acceptable than others. Certain children can get labelled ‘they sporty one’ or ‘the creative one’ which can result in one child hogging that arena of life and the other children identifying as not being able or competent in that area. As much as possible value your children for whom they are and what they are naturally drawn to do.
Become aware of how your talk to your kids. Do you address them as little people with less power than you or can you foster a relationship that is based on equality and respect? Make a practice of becoming interested in their views, especially if they are very different to yours, avoid squashing their opinions with your knowledge, instead find ways of exploring what they are saying so that they have a chance to understand what is making them think certain things.
Let them have their own mind
Let your children express their feelings and speak their minds. Of course there will be boundaries around appropriate behaviour in certain situations but ensure that you give a message that this is because there are other needs to consider rather than a giving a message that there is something essentially wrong with their emotional expression.
Teach your kids the value of appreciation, both of themselves and of others, ask them what they feel they are doing well at and how they would like to develop skills and behaviours that they aspire to. Be honest with them, when they ask you what is wrong, find a way of responding that is authentic whilst boundaried, and let them know that caring for others is a valuable trait, they are not actually responsible for how you or anyone else feels.
Teach them how to listen. The most effective way of doing this, as with all the other tips too, is to model it. Become aware of how to really listen to them, avoid finishing off sentences or speaking for them in social situations, instead bring your attention back to yourself and how you handle moments of awkwardness or shyness and work on increasing your own confidence.
Become aware of all that you are modelling and do this with an attitude of kindness to yourself. You may not have been raised with as much encouragement as you would like your children to have and this may have left some marks on you. Tune into the messages that you consciously and unconsciously give out about yourself, about women, men, young people etc and challenge yourself to develop attitudes and beliefs that support your commitment to model empowerment.
Let your children take risks, encourage them to try things that they feel scared of and at the same time be respectful of their own limits. Support them to express themselves creatively in whatever way they naturally veer towards. Validate their friendships, put yourself in their shoes again and again and see how well you can see the world through their eyes. Encourage honesty and courage in their communication and in moments when they want you to make excuses on their behalf for things, find a way of supporting them to speak for themselves and learn powerful techniques of negotiation, saying no and asking for what they want.
You CAN do it!
Give them a message that they can do anything. Compared to the US, Britain has a culture of putting up with rather than can do. Challenge yourself to raise children who believe that it’s possible to follow dreams, work hard and achieve. Find role modes either on a personal level or from well-known people who have demonstrated that it is possible to have a vision and make it happen in the world.
Finally help them to bear life‚Äôs disappointments and trials. Avoid minimising their experiences, let them have their feelings and at the same time find a gentle way to normalise their reactions and offer an overview that teaches that it is possible to face challenges and come through stronger. Encourage them to have down time and parts of their weeks when there is no structure and activity planned so that they become comfortable in their own company without the need for constant outside stimulation.