Children today have been dealt a difficult hand in many ways. With our world changing rapidly, it seems there is a new hot topic involving children in the media every day from healthcare arguments, to sexual abuse cases, to gender stereotyping concerns. It’s hard to navigate our own lives as adults and know what to say and do to protect our physical and mental health. It’s even more difficult as a child, especially one who has not been trained to properly express themselves. As cliche as it sounds, our children are our future, and whether you’re a parent, a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, or some other member of the village, we all have a role to play in empowering children and making sure they are ready to function in this cruel world.
For this article, we have scoured the sources, looking for all the best ideas for empowering children with self-confidence, improved decision-making, and top-notch problem-solving skills.
Adventure brings out the best in them!
Your kids are just like you, they need challenges to help them realize their potential. It’s human nature. But it’s nice if these challenges are small, to begin with, right? For an ideal entry-level challenge, how about trying our Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition puzzle book? This beautiful book of creative games was designed to bring families together through a series of fun interactive experiences. So what are you waiting for? Buy the book now and get ready to bring out the best in your kids!
Quality Time With Adventures From Scratch
Spending quality time with the children in our lives is key to building their self-esteem. It’s in those moments of devoted time together that we can assess and encourage their strengths, notice and speak grace into their weaknesses, and hear their concerns. The travel and relationship experts at Adventures From Scratch: Family Edition, created our scratch-off adventure book with quality time in mind!
With over 55 expertly crafted experiences, ranging from creative challenges to cooking, dancing, and hiking adventures, we have gathered all the best bonding moments for your crew. Whether you have a weekend away or just a little time to play in the backyard, Adventures From Scratch has an experience that fits the bills. We even include tear-out post-card adventure invitations that you can send your favorite kiddos in the mail. It’s the perfect gift for any active family you know, including your own!
What is empowerment and why is it important?
According to the Oxford Dictionary empowerment is “the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling one’s life and claiming one’s rights.” Views on the rights and expectations of children are changing around the world in recent decades. The 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child now summarizes that children should have the right to act in their defense concerning matters that affect them, including their health and safety measures. It urges adults to take into consideration the opinions of their children when making decisions that affect them.
With views changing in this way, it liberates the child, but also puts an extra measure of responsibility on them. An excerpt from Education in the Digital Age: Healthy and Happy Children states that research studies show children who are involved in decision-making processes in their communities, can foster a stronger sense of responsibility to others and promote community health. That’s amazing, but these children must be empowered and self-aware enough to speak into those situations. Building confidence, kindness, and self-awareness in our children not only allows them to construct a healthy future for themselves but, by trickle-down effect, creates stronger and more well-rounded communities.
Interventions for Child Empowerment
1. Look for their unique greatness.
Every child has greatness within them. They have unique abilities, thought processes, creativity, and potential. However, most young people do not innately see how special their qualities are until someone they respect points it out and encourages them to excel in those areas.
According to Psychology Today, encouragement is the act of “putting courage” into your child. Author of “The Emotionally Healthy Child,” Maureen Heely, says that encouraging children at a young age, “enables them to see themselves as they are: highly competent now.” If you want to increase the self-worth of a child, look for areas where they excel and encourage them to dream big in those areas.
2. Be a super-model.
According to the team of experts at Big Life Journal, caregivers need to model the behavior they seek to inspire in children. That means listening to others’ problems intently. Admitting when you don’t have all the answers. Giving them words to express their frustration and fears, without degrading their abilities, thing like “this is hard, I need to think about it a minute,” or “that is frustrating, what do you think the best solution is?” We should ask children to help us brainstorm ideas for complicated problems, showing them that is okay to ask for help from others.
Maybe the hardest part of this concept is to not express negative attitudes towards the children or ourselves! We should avoid making negative comments about our looks or abilities in front of children. We should avoid phrases like “I give up,” or “I’ll never figure this out.” Even when we do fail to complete a challenge, it’s best to look at the positives and find a lesson that was learned or a future initiative to strive for.
3. Be a learner.
According to Maureen Heely, caregivers need to put aside preconceived notions and our areas of hurt to learn the proper ways to encourage our children. Learning this skill is similar to learning any other skill and it takes effort and dedication. You’ll make mistakes. You’ll let negative words slip, and it may take time for you to perfectly assess the way your child feels. Keep learning.
4. Give them a voice.
According to the experts at the American Society for the Positive Care of Children (ASPCC), it’s important, even in the early years, to let your child have a say in decisions that affect them. That could mean encouraging them to pick out their shoes today, or asking them what they would like to have for lunch. This helps them learn to develop opinions and learn to express those opinions in a safe environment. If we choose their cup for them every day, children never realize that they have a preference, and they never learn to express it. As long as their decision is safe and aligns with your family goals and rules, then try to go with it. You want to encourage their decision–making and show them that you support and trust them to make a good call.
This tactic is especially important in the toddler years when children are learning to express themselves verbally and experience their first ounce of autonomy. They often get frustrated with their inability to verbalize, but they are seeking independence and may need help. Offering them simple choices, with parameters, can help them to feel autonomous and empowered.
5. Don’t rely on the school.
As a former preschool teacher, I was once confronted with a child that was having some difficulties learning to potty train. It was well within the child’s ability, but efforts at school were not being matched at home, and the decision was made to speak with the parents, as the child desired to be diaper free. When we spoke with the parent, her response was that potty training her child was our responsibility, “that’s why I send him to child care.”
While teachers can have an immense impact on your child’s well-being and most are more than willing to do their part, fully relying on the school system to rear children is a scary thought. Many parents got a new appreciation for educators during the Covid-19 pandemic when they suddenly become homeschool teachers. Now, multiply that by 25. Teachers have 20-30 children in their classrooms to attend to. Some have disabilities that require extra attention. Others have disciplinary issues or learning deficits. No teacher, no matter how amazing, can attend to the total development of every child in their classroom. They can’t learn it all in school. It has to be consistent at home too.
6. Celebrate differences.
The ASPCC also suggests ensuring that children in your circle embrace and celebrate their differences and the diversity of the people are them. We are all different, thank goodness. The world doesn’t need thousands of me or you. We need the beauty and ingenuity of diversity. Here again, the most important way to teach respect for diversity is to model it.
As adults, we must be seen celebrating others, from all walks of life, all races, and all genders. We need to educate children about ethnicity, religion, and sexual orientation, and encourage them that even if they do not agree with another person’s choices, they are to respect that person and look for the best in them. Be on the lookout for prejudicial and bullying verbiage from yourself and your child and take opportunities to gently correct them.
7. Set aside time.
According to Stacey Kelly, former school teacher and founder of Early Years Story Box, “it’s important for children to feel heard and valued.” They need to know that even though we are busy, they are more important. Set aside time to be present and talk to your children. Don’t do it while cooking supper or some other distraction. Sit down with them and devote your attention to listening and encouraging.
These conversations are where you look for keywords about what is going on in your child’s life. What are they frustrated about? What are feeling accomplished in? Who is giving them trouble at school? These uninterrupted moments provide teaching moments to work on problem-solving skills, brainstorm ideas, and give advice. Plus, they instill in your child confidence that you’re always available and that they can come to you to help them work through life.
8. Encourage a little risk-taking.
According to Parenta, it’s very important to allow children to take developmentally appropriate risks and allow them to fail. That might go against every ounce of your parenting intuition. We all want safe and happy children, however, nobody learns to run without falling a few times. By letting children take reasonable risks, you’re showing them that you trust them to complete the task, which instills confidence in them that they can do it.
Allowing them to fail at tasks is an important part of learning persistence and can help build self-esteem. Teaching children to see failure as part of the process of success and not the end of the line is important. We all fail. It’s what we do with the failure that matters. Failing in the now can empower children to succeed in the future and eventually build their self-esteem instead of crushing it.
If a child fails at something two or three times but then conquers it on the fourth attempt, they not only have something to feel proud of right now, but they have an experience for you to remind them of when the next trial comes along. “Remember that time you were learning to ride your bike, and you fell three times, but then you tried again, and you did it perfectly?” Protecting children from every failure and every hurt is not preparing them for the real adult world, which is full of both.
9. Be willing to explain.
The experts at ASPCC stress the importance of explaining the reasons behind what you tell your children to do. This can be difficult while in the moment, especially for more authoritarian parenting styles. Explaining is important, not in that you negate authority or give your child control in the situation, but it’s actually to teach the “why” behind the “what.” Responsible and well-rounded adults think about their actions and make the best decision they can, based on many factors. Most of us don’t just do things because we are told to. We do them because we understand the ethics behind our actions.
Knowing why you’re against a particular action or offense helps your child better understand right from wrong. Try to stay calm. Explain why their action or words were inappropriate and why you do not want them to do that particular thing again. Ideally, this all happens at the time of the incident, but that isn’t always possible. Many parents don’t want to be argued with or asked “why?” while in the moment. You can teach children to go ahead and perform the task when you ask, but let them know that you can sit down and talk about the reasonings soon. Then, respect your child and be faithful enough to do that! They can’t be expected to learn to assess hurtful words, errant behaviors, and socially unacceptable actions without explanation.
10. Beware overuse of social media.
Social media is a given for tweens and teens at this point. If used appropriately and monitored, it can help children engage with friends and enhance relationships, but according to The Child Mind Institute, overuse can have negative impacts on teenagers’ self-esteem. Studies even show that there may be links to mental health problems including anxiety and suicidal thoughts.
The reward center in a teenage brain is hyperactive. Imaging studies show that social media triggers that area of our brains, that area that longs to be liked and rewarded for our good traits. According to the site’s 2017 report, this has produced some good measures with drinking and drug use, and car accidents decreasing among teenagers as they opt to stay home more. Studies also show that fewer teenagers are sexually active now, so there are some promising aspects, but overuse has been shown to lead to general unhappiness, feelings of depression and anxiety, and cyberbullying.
In short, social media usage among teenagers and tweens must be reasonable. It’s okay to set time limits and monitor for bullying behaviors. Social media should be used to encourage healthy relationships among peers when physical presence can’t be achieved. It can be positive if it replaces negative experiences or loneliness. However, it should not be used as a substitute for in-person relationships, exercise, or appropriate play.
11. Teach gratitude.
The goal is to create confident children, children who can go out into the world and hold their own, not to foster narcissism or entitlement, and sometimes it’s a hard line to walk. The experts at Parenta suggest that we teach children more than just saying a polite “thank you.” Gratitude isn’t just lip service. Multiple studies show that expressing gratitude, whether it be in prayer, journaling, meditation, or in verbalization to others, reduces stress and anxiety levels. Teaching children to show their gratitude for small things, to think about those who have less and how they can help, and to care for the possessions they have will ultimately lead to an ability to see the beauty in life and appreciate the small things, including other people.
12. Lend a hand.
According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, self-actualization, or “the desire to be the most that one can be” is at the top, the last step on a pyramid of needs. At the base of the pyramid are physiological needs like food and water and safety needs like health and personal security. In other words, to get to self-actualization, baser needs of physical safety and comfort must be achieved. A child who feels unsafe, or is hungry, or has emotional trauma going on at home will have far more trouble with self-esteem, feeling included, and recognizing their potential.
According to the Empowering Children Foundation, a nonprofit organization that provides services for children and caregivers of children experiencing violence or sexual abuse in Poland, 41% of children are experiencing some kind of violence from a close adult. Sixteen percent of teenagers are self-harming, and seven percent of children claim that they have no adult that they trust in their life. Those are terrifying numbers.
Be the adult that a child trusts. If you suspect something, report it to the proper authorities. If it’s within your power to ensure that a child is safe, clothed, well-fed, and loved, then do it. Whether that is by donating to one of these nonprofit organizations or by reaching out to a child that is close to you. They deserve our attention, and they deserve our protection. They deserve to be able to grow and learn and function at their best, and they can’t do that if they are hungry, scared, and suffering from the mental health strains of immense stress or abuse.
You got this!
Whether you’re a teacher, a parent, or an auntie, you can speak into the life of a child close to you. Take the opportunity to listen. Watch the negative words you use and model positivity. Teach gratitude when you see the opportunity and address hurtful words or actions when they come up to teach and guide instead of shame and punish. Every child has the potential to become a well-rounded, confident, and productive individual. They deserve our help in getting there.
Got any tips for instilling confidence in the kiddos that have worked for your clan? Drop it in the comments!
There is so much parenting advice out there, so many different styles and recommendations. Need a little help sorting it? Take some tips from “Putting Parenting Advice Into Perspective.”
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Frequently Asked Questions
Empowering the children in your life doesn’t have to be hard. Refrain from negative language, encourage them in their strengths, and teach gratitude at every turn!
Empowering children involves creating well-rounded citizens that value their worth and the worth of others. Teach the importance of diversity and encourage them to encourage others.
Spending quality time with children is inherent to building self-esteem. Take them on bonding adventures, give them devoted conversation time, and respect their opinions.
Empowering children foundation. Empowering Children Foundation. (n.d.). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://fdds.pl/en
Smartphones and Social Media. Child Mind Institute. (2021, September 22). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://childmind.org/awareness-campaigns/childrens-mental-health-report/2017-childrens-mental-health-report/smartphones-social-media/
Kelly, S., & *, N. (2020, March 25). 10 ways to Empower Children. Parenta.com. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.parenta.com/2019/12/01/10-ways-to-empower-children/
Gottschalk, F., Gottschalk, F., & France. (n.d.). Home. Child empowerment, well-being, and inequality | Education in the Digital Age: Healthy and Happy Children | OECD iLibrary. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/sites/2af6f0b7-en/index.html?itemId=%2Fcontent%2Fcomponent%2F2af6f0b7-en
10 tips for raising empowered children. American SPCC. (2020, November 3). Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://americanspcc.org/ten-tips-raising-empowered-children/
Cullins, A. (n.d.). How to empower children when they struggle. Big Life Journal. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://biglifejournal.com/blogs/blog/empower-children-struggle
Healy, M. (n.d.). Empowering kids: Are you an empowering parent? Psychology Today. Retrieved October 30, 2022, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/creative-development/200906/empowering-kids