The tool card we worked with most recently was Empower Your Kids! When Jane Nelson shares this tool she does so in comparison with enabling your children, as in Empower vs. Enable. Which would you choose? Which are you currently doing? It is surprising to many parents when they discover that the things they do in the name of love or protection, are actually enabling their children. When you enable your children they get the message from you that they are not capable or competent. I am sure no parent would choose to give this message to their children, but without knowing we do it all the time.
One type of enabling that I see all the time is: Doing things for the child that he could do for herself. Parents love their children, and they think that the way they should show their love is by "helping" their children as much as possible. In Montessori we see this as one of the biggest obstacles that parents create for their children. Montessori said, "Any unnecessary help is a hinderance to development". Every time you do for a child what she could do herself, you might as well tell her aloud, "You are not capable of doing that, let me do if for you"! Of course parents would rarely say it in words, but their actions are saying it loud and clear to the child. By allowing your child to complete the task on his own to the best of his ability you empower her.
This form of empowerment starts at birth. As soon as the child is capable of doing something, you must let her. When the child is capable of digesting food, feed her solids. When she is able to grasp a spoon, let her do so in attempts to feed herself. No, all the food won't make it to her mouth, and you may need a second spoon to ensure that some of the food does make it in, but don't take that opportunity from her. This continues as they develop: drinking from a glass, crawling, walking, using the toilet, running, climbing, spending time away from you, all the way to driving, and eventually living alone!
Children must be allowed to do for themselves, and know that you are behind them, believing in them and supporting them from a distance. We can't constantly protect them, hover over them, make excuses for them, over protect them, and rescue them, and then expect them to be able to do things for themselves. When we enable them we break them down, and when we empower them we build them up!
You can start empowering your children today. Express your faith in them, work with them to find solutions to problems and teach life skills, try to step back and let go, a little bit at a time. When we let go and give children power over themselves they rise to the occasion. When they have to go behind our backs to use their power they often make undesirable choices. They will make mistakes when you empower them too, but they just need to be reminded that mistakes are wonderful opportunities for learning. Check out an older post on embracing mistakes. Children who are given the opportunity to make mistakes and learn from them get stronger, smarter, and more confident in their ability to handle what life brings. That is what I want, children who grow up to be confident capable adults!
Next week: Motivation.