Every single sentence children say is an opportunity for us to empower them, but even more so when they say that they “can’t do it”. Here are the 10 sentence I say to empower my child when he needs a boost of confidence.
As parents, most of us repeat what we were told as children. We all grew up being told “sure you can!” when we said we couldn’t, “there’s nothing to worry for” when we were worried, and “common! It’s easy!” when we said that it was hard.
Let’s admit it, if we don’t come to actually think about every one of these sentences, the above responses seem so natural, and, well – just automatic. But if we come to consider the speaker’s experience (in this case – a child’s human experience) when uttering these sentences, we will find something completely different.
And if it Would Have Been You?
Imagine you’re at work and you’re asked to perform a task you’re not sure how to approach. It’s new, it doesn’t necessarily have any resemblance to other tasks you’ve performed, perhaps you even think that another colleague will do it better, and in all honesty – this task causes you some anxiety. I think we can all relate to this scenario. With all these feelings behind “I can’t do it”, how would you feel if someone just told you “common! It’s easy”? Moreover – would it help you perform the task?
Nope. It will make you question and doubt yourself further and will lower your self esteem with regards to the task, and perhaps even in general.
A Boost Of Confidence When it’s Needed the Most
In order for us to offer our children empowering responses, we need to listen to what they really mean, behind the words that are actually spoken. It’s not easy. Our ears have been trained to shun away from the pure human experience behind the spoken word. I’m sure that if you’ll read the following list you’ll know exactly what I mean and will be able to recognize these golden opportunities to boost your child’s self esteem.
The Biggest Misconceptions of Modern Parenting
One of the biggest misconceptions of modern parenting is parents’ belief that they need to prevent their children from feeling unpleasant feelings, and that it’s their job to solve all their problems. Our natural tendency is to say “don’t say that!”, “let me do it for you”, or “there’s nothing to be scared of” and push the issue away. These responses are much easier on the parent since they don’t need to actually deal with what was said, and allows them to detach from the situation or simply just end it. These responses do an immense disservice to children, as not only that they don’t learn how to handle big emotions, but they are told (even if not in so many words) that their emotions don’t have a right to exist.
But I Turned Out Just Fine!
This is a sentence I hear almost on a daily basis working with parents. Yes, I say. You did – but you could have been much happier, more fulfilled, true to yourself, and to your loved ones had your needs and feelings were actually considered when you were a child.
Take a look at our generation – it might be super productive and creative, but it is emotionally detached on too many levels. How many of us are actually happy? How many of us are living a life of met needs? How many of us are aware we even have needs…? How many of us are actually able to say “this is what I need to be happy, and I know what I need to do to achieve happiness”? Studies show that not too many are. Most people on this planet work in jobs they don’t care for, major in subjects that are not right for them, marry partners that don’t meet their needs, and keep engaging in self-sabotaging thought and behavioral patterns, on a daily basis.
This might qualify for “turning out just fine”, but it doesn’t qualify for “turning out great”, and this is what we want for our children, isn’t it?
Recognizing when children need us to empower them, and meeting their needs of self expression, connection and being seen, will raise a generation of adults who are not afraid of happiness, believe they deserve to be happy, and are not afraid to take action to bring happiness forth (in addition to a variety of other benefits).
10 Sentences I Say to Empower My Child
- When my child says “I am scared” and shares his feelings with me, I will always validate his fear and share in his experience. “It sure is scary to try new things/do new things/meet new people. I am right here next to you and I will do whatever you need to feel more secure. Just tell me what it is”. Saying this allows my little one to know that his feelings are always valid, encourages him to share his feelings with me, teaches him to pause and think what he needs in order to better his experience and own his decision, and most importantly – teaches him to count on me.
- When my child shares unpleasant feelings towards me (I hate you, you’re mean), I know it has nothing to do with me, but rather – has everything to do with his experience in the given moment. He doesn’t feel seen, he doesn’t feel heard, he doesn’t feel connected, and all these feelings hurt him. If I would have said “you’re not allowed to say that” I would have shut him to his own feelings, instead of teaching him a better way to speak them out while actually strengthening our relationship. And that’s my job here, really. “Wow, it really upset you when I did x”, “you’re really mad at me for y”, “you’re really frustrated that I…” is what I say. This teaches him that “hate” is not the best of words, and that there are other words that fit the situation much better. This teaches him that he can talk to me and makes him feel seen and heard (specially if my guess hits the home-run on the first go). I then always ask “how can we solve this?” to have him own his feelings, come up with ideas and discuss them until the best one – for all participants – is found.
- When my child says “this is stupid!” I remind myself that children attack when they feel powerless. Adults do it, too (modern discipline is based on this idea exactly). Saying “this is stupid” and walking away is the same as pushing a friend and walking away. Sayings and actions of this sort arise when children feel threatened, for whichever reason, and try to regain their sense of control over the situation by resorting to force, verbal or physical. If we’ll ask ourselves what is it that made the child say it, instead of reacting to the spoken word and shutting this feeling down, we’ll often find the root cause in a millisecond: last time they tried they couldn’t make it, they saw a friend doing it better, they are afraid to disappoint us (or themselves), there are many possible reason and you will know the one reason that’s right for your child. “I agree this might feel stupid and hard at first, but the question is do you want to try? If you do – you should try it. And not making it on the first time is fine. I remember I once feared of doing…” and I move on to a personal story in which I overcame one of my fears or managed to do something I didn’t think I could. This strategy meets my little one with an empowering new way to consider new situations – little kids are actually afraid of not making it – telling them that it happens to us to work to connect up further in addition to encouraging them to try.
- When my child says “mommy look at me!!!”, he really wants me to look at him, what he has done and how awesome he feels about that. All the playgrounds are full with parents who are playing Candy Crush or talking on the phone while their kids are all over the place yelling “mommy look at me!”. The mom usually says something like “oh that’s great honey”, and only few actually look up. Children need us to validate their feelings, pleasant and unpleasant alike. When they are proud of themselves they need us to be proud of them. When we don’t – their pride in themselves diminishes. I’ll be honest, I too use my phone on the playground. But when my connection is needed – I always give it and share the pride. “Wow! Looking at you being so proud of yourself makes me so happy!”. That’s what I say.
- When my child says “it hurts!!” I remind myself of when I am in pain. I always say that exclamations of pain for the little ones work the same as curse words for adults – we use them because these words actually release chemicals in our brain that dull the pain and make us feel better, this in addition to the experience of authentic self expression that is needed whenever we feel hurt – for whichever reason. When parents say “no, common, this is just a little scratch” they actually interfere with natural chemical process in a child’s brain, chemicals that are instinctively released to protect him. When we negate this experience we sabotage a wide variety of biological and emotional needs. Instead, I always say “oh love, it really hurts, doesn’t it?”
- When my child says “it’s hard”, he doesn’t need me to tell him that it isn’t, he needs me to give him what he needs to find his own will to try and accomplish the task. And fail, if needed. Whenever my little one says something is too hard, I say “I know, because you haven’t tried it yet, and new things are always hard. Can you remind me why this is important to you”? This usually sends him back on track of inner motivations and into trying to master the task.
- When my child says that “I need help”, I remind myself that he doesn’t always say that. There are a million things children can say instead of “I need help”. When kids say that they “need” help – they need help. They might need help because they actually need the actual help, or they can need the help because our help will make them feel more connected to us. But either way – they need help. We need to help. What I say: “Sure love. I’m coming”.
- When my child comes up to me saying “Mike hit me”, I refrain from the tendency is always to “solve the problem” and end the situation, or assume the role of a judge who asks what happened, and decides who was wrong and who was right. Actually, this is not my job. My little one need to be the judge of that, and my job as a parent is to make sure he looks at these situations with his heart. I always say “okay, I understand there’s a problem, how would you like to solve it?”. Sure, he would still describe the happening, and share his feelings about it, but he will also figure everything out himself – even when he is on the “wrong” side. Teaching children to listen to their hearts in social situations is one of the most important lessons a parent can teach.
- When my child screams “mommy I want it now!” I remind myself that kids want things, and it’s okay for us to say “no”. This happens every day, a couple of time a day. We can continue saying “no” without shaming the child for wanting something. You can follow this link to my Facebook page where I share a lesson on this issue exactly.
Children whose need to autonomy is not celebrated and respected, are children who refuse and resist what they are told and asked. The reason for this is simple – the less freedom I have – the more I want it. It is true for all human beings, of all ages. As soon as we will start celebrating our children’s need for autonomy and granting it whenever possible (only when possible) we will see the walls of resistance crumbling and letting us into our children, into their souls and back into their hearts. Read this article on the need for autonomy which is probably the most important need, and a life changing lesson.
We are used to looking for the negative interpretation; we find the spoiled in the wishing kid, we find the manipulative in the crying baby, we find the “testing of limits” in the constant pursuit of a child to have his needs met.
Everything is natural, biologically and chemically normal if we’re brave enough to consider the human experience behind our interpretation.
If you will take one month to incorporate the above responses onto your daily life with your children, it won’t be too long for everything to change for the better. Much better.
I would love to help you, and I would love for you to join my parenting support group on Facebook where I am always available.
I hope to meet you soon!