Last week I admitted I took my kids to an R-Rated movie. During conversations stemming from that article, I realized something very important. Sometimes I can be a helicopter mom. Other times, I avoid situations by saying, “go talk to/ask your dad” rather than dealing with a problem. No matter where I might land on the spectrum on any given day, there’s one thing I have always tried hard to do and that is empower my girls.
- I want them to learn how to avoid being put into a position that can cause physical harm to them.
- I want them to be able to stand up for themselves when they are in uncomfortable situations.
- I want them to recognize that words cannot hurt you if you don’t allow them to.
- I want them to understand the importance of health, happiness and love.
- I want them to learn to make good decisions so they’ll know how to do it when I’m not around.
I’ll admit I’m not the best at broaching difficult subjects because I’m easily embarrassed. Yet I find ways to have conversations with the girls about things that matter as well as idle chit chat. It’s important to be emotionally available so they feel comfortable talking when something really is important. Which leads to some of the ways we empower our kids:
Teach kids to be their own advocates
We encourage them to be advocates for themselves. If something is bothering them, if they feel shorted or cheated or if they don’t believe something is fair then they need to speak up. Whether it’s to us, to friends or teachers, they need to professionally and respectfully discuss their concerns. A number of years ago, one of the girls was having a problem with her teacher and took time to discuss it one on one. The teacher later applauded us for the situation and said our daughter handled herself tactfully despite being noticeably upset. She remained composed as she presented her case. These steps are very important. I will not always be there to advocate for my child and honestly, there are some battles they really need to fight on their own.
Teach kids to ask for what they want
If your child wants a particular kind of food for dinner, to attend some event with friends or to participate in a specific sport or activity at school, empower kids by teaching them to say what they want. You’re probably shaking your head, “Duh. Kids ask for things all the time!” I’m not referring to kids asking with the expectation it will be given to them. I mean in a broader, learn-to-communicate” way. Not only do they need to express their interests, but they should find ways to give back to ensure they can achieve what they want. “I found this new recipe online. Mind if I help you shop for groceries and help make it for dinner?” or “Mom, I finished all my chores early. Can I help you with anything around the house then go hang out with my friends?” Teach them to convey their dreams, hopes and wishes but come into it with a plan to give as well as receive. Everyone is more likely to get what they want if they’ve brought something positive to the table as part of the negotiation.
Teach kids to value money
If a child doesn’t learn the value of a dollar when they are young, they’ll go into adulthood lacking one of the most important skills in life. In addition to helping with family finances by learning ways to save money while traveling, using coupons at the grocery store and saving on energy bills, kids need to be accountable for their own money. If you give them an allowance or they receive money as gifts, then give that money meaning. As a parent, you should cover normal costs such as food, clothing and education, but tell kids that incidentals are their own responsibility. And by incidentals, I mean going to the movies with friends, that outfit they “need” for who-knows-what or even candy/gum while grocery shopping. If it’s a luxury as opposed to a necessity, they should be willing to foot the bill themselves. One of two things will happen: Either they will run out of money then not be able to purchase something they REALLY want or they’ll start to rethink whether they REALLY want something or not. I know plenty of adults who have never figured this out and they live paycheck to paycheck.
Teach kids to find a solution
Problems don’t fix themselves. Whether we are talking about bullying at school or plastic in the ocean, it doesn’t just go away. Empower kids to seek out solutions to personal problems, local issues or even world concerns if they feel passionate about something. Remind them that sometimes intervention can help resolve issues immediately but more often it takes time and patience. From struggling with a class in school to wanting more money to buy the latest gadget, there are ways to achieve success. It simply takes time and evaluation to figure out what solution will work.
Teach kids to help in the kitchen
Teaching kids their way around the kitchen is beneficial to everyone. Parents get some added assistance while children learn a necessary life skill. My girls enjoy sushi at home and don’t mind various types of fish recipes, but never would I have guessed they would plan and prepare packet tilapia and glazed carrots all on their own. That’s what they did a couple weekends ago! I proudly told them that I’ll gladly stay out of the way and wash their dishes any time they want make that kind of dinner! Whether it’s planting a garden for ingredients for dinner or preparing a simple goulash recipe in the Crock Pot, these tasks give kids a say in what ends up on the table.
Teach kids to ask how they can improve
At the risk of sounding intolerant, I’m really tired of all the whining that gets spewed online. We are living the repercussions of the “everyone is a winner” generation. People simply do not know how to cope if they aren’t considered a winner in some way, shape or form. It isn’t about inclusiveness, it’s about avoiding difficult subjects. Seriously… not everyone deserves a trophy. That kid that didn’t show good sportsmanship when he lost? Think about what we are teaching when bad behavior happens then we turn around and say “Good job. Here’s your trophy.” We aren’t monsters. We do console our girls when they don’t win, don’t receive the grade they wanted on a school project, assignment or test or aren’t selected for a position, performance or role they wanted. We follow it up with advice that they should consult the people who make the decisions and find out what they can do better for next time. Know what this does? It shows a child that there is always room for improvement, no matter how good you are.
These are a few of the many ways to empower kids to be better, safer and smarter. While they are young, it teaches them to control difficult or volatile situations and as they get older, it allows them to improve themselves as well as the world around them. They’ll have the skills needed to take control of their destiny both professionally and personally.
What tactics do you employ to empower kids?