Currently children face many challenges such as obesity, attention deficit disorders, diabetes, violence, bullying, gun crimes, widening economic gaps, and mental health disorders and eating disorders. As parents, educators, and professionals working with kids, we identify our role as raising, guiding, teaching, and protecting our children. Rather than being in charge of our children or protecting them from the negatives in life, let’s redefine our relationship with children as one that empowers kids to find intrinsic value and self-worth.
The Miriam Webster dictionary defines “empower” as to give power or authority to; to promote the self-actualization or influence of. I left out "to enable" as it implies dependence. An empowered child will feel capable, confident, and valued. These definitions support that what is vital to children of the 21st Century is empowerment to mature as self-confident, self-reliant adults. Our role is provide them with tools and opportunities to use the tools to develop self-esteem, self-confidence, self-worth, and self-reliance.
Just how do we support our kids to maneuver the obstacles and complexities of growing up and living life? Let us explore Tools for Empowerment. We begin our journey with our first of eight tools, self-empowerment through our thoughts to find intrinsic value and self-worth.
One way to empower our children is through affirmations not just as positive language by adults but to encourage children to learn to create within themselves. Children’s brains are continuing to be wired and we can support our children’s growth and development with affirmations, children will develop a stronger sense of identity, self-worth, and self-confidence.
Mantras are most often understood as beautiful Sanskrit prayers with spiritual purpose to protect the mind. For children, the concept of mantras is that words are powerful, spoken and unspoken. The words we choose to repeat can become a part of who we are and reveal over time truths about ourselves and connection to inner source when positive and recited with faith and trust.
Our words can also become the negative self-talk in our heads, and can lead us to a false self-image and disconnection to our true and authentic self and inner source. Negative self-talk can reduce our self-esteem, self-worth and self-confidence.
Yoga Garden – The Inner Landscape of a Child
Our mind and heart are both connected and can be viewed as our garden or inner landscape. What we choose to plant, care for, nourish, cultivate will reap an abundant harvest. Our thoughts can start in seed form. Where we choose to place our attention and focus will allow that seed to blossom. Our breath, our actions, our habits, and experiences, all nourish the seed. What the seed will offer in harvest is based on whether what was planted was positive or negative.
Negative thoughts over time will become the truth. We will have fallen into the illusion that we are imperfect and see negative qualities in others. Our ability to relate to our inner self and to others is misguided and creates suffering and leads to illness, disease and addictions. As human beings, we have the ability to change these habits of the mind and make a conscious shift to choose to plant seeds that support our health and well-being in a compassionate and empowering way. The seeds we planted can be weeds or flower blossoms. We need to pull out the negative weeds and replace them by planting positive mantra/seed. It takes time to undo habits of the mind but by using our tools of focus, awareness and discernment, we can create new habits of the mind that empower us and allow us to illuminate the light within.
Remember, from the day we were born, we are whole, perfect, and complete.
We forget our true nature and must once again remember. This is the practice of Yoga.
Parent Practice (Under age 5) Observe your thoughts about your children. Become aware of the words you choose to be spoken to or about your children. We have been programmed to refer to girls as pretty and boys as strong. Even others comment on our sons as being active and smart and our daughters as being pretty and sweet. Become aware of any words spoken that are gender bias. Our choice of words can support or impede our child's development.
Family Practice (Ages 5 & Up)
I AM…make a list of adjectives that describe you. Parents do this with kids to model and benefit as well from
positive thinking. List as many words as you can. Don’t worry about spelling, writing sentences, or thinking you are showing off. Getting the ideas down is what is important. We are not bragging. We are believing in ourselves. Look over your list, are there any negative words or put downs? If so, cross them out. Can you replace the negative word with a positive word that perhaps is the opposite to cultivate? Ask other loved ones to describe you with adjectives. Keep adding to your list. You can list new words that you may doubt describe you. We don’t compare our list or think one person in the family is more creative so we are not. Let go of the negative and plant new seeds to nourish in your garden. Use a thesaurus and find new ways to say a word like smart or strong with more powerful words that have similar meaning. Let your list continue to grow and say it aloud when with a loud, speaking voice, “ I AM…”. Catch your family members when they speak negatively of themselves and help them to make a shift to positive thinking. Make a word cloud poster with your affirmations.
Check out these videos of 3 empowered children educating us as adult to see them, hear them, value them, and change our language to empower them. How do you empower your children?
If You Give a Child a Word— spoken art | Brandon Sanders and Mikeala Miller | TEDxYouth@FtWorth
Words Can Never Hurt Me — Chiara Compiani | TEDxAmanaAcademy