In this fast-paced world, it can be very easy to get distracted. We all have a million things on our to-do lists at any given moment and it can mean that we rarely stand still. It’s important for children to feel heard and valued, and a good way to do this, is to make sure that when we are with them, that we are truly present. By taking away any distractions and giving children our full attention, we are showing them that they are important and that we want to hear what they have to say.
Teach them about body autonomy
It’s important for children to know that their body is theirs and for them to learn how to set boundaries. Quite often with friends and family members, children are asked to give hugs goodbye. If they don’t want to, it is common for us to try to cajole them into doing it, but is this the right thing to do? If we want children to know that their body is theirs, we need to teach them this when they are younger, and by simply allowing them to not give a hug if they don’t want to, we reinforce this message.
Allow them to take risks
We all want to protect children and it’s important to keep them safe. However, there are times when we can overprotect them. By allowing children to take small risks like climbing the ladder to the slide without us reaching out our hand, we show them that we trust them and this, in turn, builds their self-belief. Of course, we will be there to catch them if they fall, but by not helping them in the process, you are showing them that you believe in them.
Allow them to fail
Failure is a part of success and it’s important for children to learn this. A person that sees failure as a stepping-stone to their goal will achieve far more than someone who lets failure define them. It can be hard to let children fail as we want to protect them. However, if we want them to succeed in the future, we need to build their resilience and learn that failure is a part of life.
Choose your words carefully
The words that we use are powerful. If we want children to feel empowered and confident, we need to make sure that the language we are using around them is instilling these values.
Quite often we can hold children to a higher standard than we can live up to ourselves. If we were in the middle of a task and engrossed, how would we feel if someone just came up to us, told us it was dinnertime and took what we were doing away without any warning? We’d be so annoyed! I think it’s important to ask ourselves how we would feel if we were on the receiving end of our actions and to extend the same respect to children that we would expect ourselves.
Teach them gratitude
We teach children to say thank you, but we rarely teach them about gratitude. Studies show that practising gratitude on a daily basis reduces stress and anxiety and increases happiness. By teaching children to be grateful about the small things, we will support them to be happier and empowered because they will see the beauty in life. Download your free gratitude pack here: earlyyearsstorybox.com/gratitude
Show them they are enough
We all have different strengths and weaknesses and it’s important for children to learn that they are good enough as they are. We don’t have to be perfect all of the time and great at everything. Children will be far happier in life if they realise this and learn to accept and love themselves even with their flaws.
Allow them to be their authentic self
We are all unique and it’s important for children to feel accepted for who they are, not who we think they should be. Children have their own minds and each one has different skills, abilities and ways of doing things. We need to nurture children to become their authentic self and to know that it is okay to be different.
Give them choice and explain yourself
Nobody likes to be controlled and the same applies to children. Of course, we have to guide them and there are times that we need to take control, but it’s important for children to learn that they have a voice. We can give children choice and still control the outcome. For example:
Put 2 outfits out and let them choose what to wear
Give them 2 lunch options
If they need to do something for safety, like holding your hand, ask them if they’d prefer to hold your hand or for you to hold the bag on their back instead
It’s also important to explain things to children. Quite often, we tell children to do something without explaining why. It may seem obvious to us, but children are not always developmentally-equipped with the ability to join the dots and by explaining things, it will help them to understand why you are doing what you are doing.
About the author
Stacey Kelly is a former teacher, a parent to 2 beautiful babies and the founder of Early Years Story Box, which is a subscription website providing children’s storybooks and early years resources. She is passionate about building children’s imagination, creativity and self-belief and about creating awareness of the impact that the Early Years have on a child’s future. Stacey loves her role as a writer, illustrator and public speaker and believes in the power of personal development. She is also on a mission to empower children to live a life full of happiness and fulfilment, which is why she launched the #ThankYouOaky Gratitude Movement.
Sign up to Stacey’s premium membership and use the code PARENTA20 to get 20% off or contact Stacey for an online demo.