Empowerment is defined as, “giving power to (someone); to make (someone) stronger and more confident”.
Empowerment is something that can positively impact anyone, from any background, no matter their age or beliefs. You have probably experienced empowerment from a friend, parent, spouse, manager, etc. and felt the powerful impact it can have. When we empower people, we are giving them a boost of confidence and a feeling that they are seen and supported.
Empowerment is especially important during childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood when a young person is building a foundation of confidence, resilience, and self-belief within themselves, although empowerment is important for everyone regardless of age.
In this blog, we will be focusing on how to empower your children and young adults so they can move through life with the skills and tools they need to be successful. If a young child is struggling to problem solve or keep up with the other kids at school, being a source of empowerment for them can help them build the core beliefs that lead to a strong sense of confidence.
There is a major difference between empowerment and enabling. When someone’s behaviors are negative and self-destructive and we encourage them (whether it is intentional or not), we are enabling them to continue their unhealthy patterns of behavior. Read last week’s blog about the Signs of Enabling and How to Stop Enabling for Good.
However, when someone is on a healthy path and is experiencing self-doubt, lack of confidence, or other issues, empowering them is a simple way to positively impact their self-esteem and well-being.
If you have children or have been around children on a regular basis, I’m sure you have said things like, “You are so smart” or, “You are so funny”. While these types of compliments are great for young kids to hear, there might be a more effective way to empower them while also establishing positive self- beliefs and life skills.
When a child or young adult hears, “You are so smart”, while that will probably put a smile on their face, that language implies that there isn’t anything they can do to change or improve…they aren’t in control of it. They can’t necessarily change their IQ by any drastic measures. Of course learning new things improves our intelligence, but over time our IQ remains relatively steady for our age group. We are all born with a need to have control in our lives, and the needs and circumstances change as we grow and self-actualize.
When a child then faces an issue where they don’t know an answer to a question or don’t understand a topic, they feel a pressure to be “smart” because that is the message they are receiving from adults, but because they don’t know something, they might believe that they aren’t as smart as people think they are.
However, by simply tweaking our choice of words from words like “smart” to words like “hard working” we can positively empower children and young adults to build confidence, responsibility, problem solving skills, resilience, and strong work ethic.
Telling a child that they are hardworking can help them view and believe themselves to be hardworking and therefore develop habits and behaviors that solidify those views and beliefs.
When a child is learning something new or facing a challenge, reminding them that they have done “hard things” before so they can do “hard things” again, helps them to build resilience and a sense of confidence.
Another way to empower children and young adults is to let them struggle and fail. As parents, it is hard to see our children struggle and our first instinct is often to step in and alleviate the stress for them. Many people might view empowerment as physically helping their child with a task, but empowerment actually involves supporting your child from the sidelines while they handle a task (safely) on their own.
For example, if they are struggling with a task, such as making their bed, and you step in at the slightest sign of struggle and make the bed for them, this not only prevents them from learning how best to make their bed, but it gives them the message that someone will always be there to do hard tasks for them, that they shouldn’t persevere until they find a solution, and that they are not capable of doing things on their own.
A different, more effective approach would be to encourage your child that they are capable of doing hard things, that they are hard working, and that they don’t always need others to help them. It is important to note that you should keep in mind your child’s capabilities so you are not encouraging them to do things that they have not yet developed the skills for.
An example for a young adult might be finding their own way to an activity because they weren’t ready on time and you left without them, or maybe they have to miss the event altogether. If they consistently aren’t ready on time and you wait for them, you teach them your time isn’t important or it's okay to keep people waiting.
Child-led problem solving is a great way to empower your children and help them build resilience, confidence, and critical thinking skills. If they are making the bed and struggling to smooth the blankets, asking them questions like, “What is something you could do to even out the blanket?” and offering them space to brainstorm their own solutions exercises problem solving skills.
You can also offer suggestions and let them decide which idea is best. Then, let them try the solution. If it works, this boosts confidence and reinforces the beliefs that they are capable of solving problems on their own. If it doesn’t work, ask them why they think it didn’t work and help them come up with other solutions. Eventually, they will most likely solve the problem. If not, you can then step in to guide them.
Consistently empowering them with positive language throughout these processes can make a significant impact on the thoughts and beliefs your child holds deep within as they grow older.
I always say that everything in life is about the stories we tell ourselves. When your child or young adult grows up with examples of positive empowerment, it will settle within their subconscious mind and motivate them to take risks, fulfill responsibilities, build resilience and self-confidence, and live life to their fullest potential.
If you are an adult who did not experience this type of empowering language growing up, you still have the power to rewire your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, expectations and interpretations of past experiences in order to overcome low self confidence, lack of resilience, anxiety, depression, stress, relationship issues, and trauma.
If you feel that your young adult would benefit from rewiring their negative thoughts and beliefs to be more positive, build resilience and confidence, and overcome anxiety, trauma, or relationship issues I have designed a program specifically for them. My Failure to Launch Program is designed for young adults ages 18-30 who are struggling with lack of resiliency, stress, inability to fulfill responsibilities, low self-confidence, poor time-management, self-sabotage, and anxiety, depression, or trauma.