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3 Steps to Empower Children Towards Feeling Adequate & Confident Again

Wendy Snyder

Midway Museum, downtown San Diego

Midway Museum, downtown San Diego

Anyone have kiddos who have a tendancy to withdraw when challenged? Or maybe have trouble standing up for themselves sometimes? Like adults, we all have times where we feel like this, but for some children, these are go to behaviors when sadness, hurt & disparity arise. 

For parents, this usually feels both heartbreaking and frustrating. At times, we may pity them, racing our brain for any way to make them feel better or fix their problem. When in other situations, feelings of annoyance and wishing they would "just be more capable" are so very prevalent. 

So what can we do in these situations that will make a lasting impression and teach our kids self-reliance? 

Three simple steps you can try: 

1.) Detach (with love): The joy of your day does not have to be tied to the joy of your child's day. So when your little one has moments of sadness, frustration, or hopelessness, practice detachment. Detaching is often confused with "not caring", when in actuality, it is simply learning to emotionally separate yourself from the situation and/or other people's emotions. Kathryn Kohls, founder of Redirecting Children's Behavior states, "The first step toward detachment is understanding that reacting and controlling don't help. The next step is getting peaceful - getting centered and restoring our balance. Take a walk, leave the room, take a long, hot bath. Call a friend. Call on God. Breathe deeply, find peace. From that peace and centering will emerge an answer, a solution." 

2.) Stay encouraging, without rescuing: Offer help & support from the sidelines instead of fixing the problem for your child. Encouragement (i.e. "You are strong", "I know you can do this", "Believe in yourself") points your child in the direction you want them to focus on, instead of discussing the pit they're trying to dig out of (i.e. avoid saying "What's wrong", "Calm down, it's not that big of a deal", "You're fine"). Ideas on verbiage include, "What do you need in order to help yourself feel better?", "What are you looking to accomplish?", "Would you like my help to work alongside you"?. 

3.) Help your child accomplish small wins: Sometimes breaking challenging situations into small pieces help big time in improving self-esteem and feelings of capability. If your child is feeling discouraged about someone not treating them kindly at school, the thought of handling the situation with courage and tenacity, all in one instance can seem overwhelming. Instead of remaining stuck in feelings of sadness & hopelessness, help them create small steps for each day of the week. Monday, tell teacher they are working on communicating limits to a classmate who's been unkind to them & ask teacher for support (if needed), Tuesday, when classmate is unkind, walk away & take three deep breaths, Wednesday: Tell classmate by looking them in the eye "No thank you, I'm not ok with you doing that". Thursday: Ask friend to support him by also telling other classmate "He's not ok with you being unkind to him" and Friday: Thank classmate for treating him differently in the future. This same concept can apply to a child who thinks he's horrible at reading and cries every time you try to read. Instead of trying to do the whole book in one night, divide the book into 5 sections & agree that you'll try just a small portion each night till you master that section, then move on to the next. When they accomplish their goal, celebrate & congratulate them! Slow & steady does wonders to build them up & tomorrow they are likely to remember "I can do this!". 

For more ideas, join me for my next full Redirecting Children's Behavior class, starting THIS Saturday 1/14, where you will learn many more ways to work with your kids when they're feeling inadequate, sad or hurt. Click here for more info and/or to register.