How do we succeed in empowering young children to be the best they can be today and always?
Teaching children well is, of course, at the forefront of every parent and educator’s list of priorities. As the leadership figures in our kids' lives, we want to prepare them for the challenges of life so they may succeed and thrive in and beyond school.
The gifts of knowledge and wisdom we give them now serve them well into the future in a world they can transform for the better, every day and every way.
It’s more than just the academia we provide for them as both teachers and parents. It’s also more than the subjects we plan and test for and the results we expect. Ultimately, empowering young children means shaping their attitudes of mind to be constructive, proactive, and compassionate.
In this article, we’ll call on the wisdom of the late Dr. Wayne W. Dyer. During his lifetime, Dr. Dyer was a prolific author and a beloved speaker. He also had 8 children of his own who have become successful performers, authors, and entrepreneurs in their own right.
The excerpts that follow come from an article featured on his blog.
1. Set a Good Example
“When teachers and parents ask what they can do to help young people get off to a healthy start in life, I say, ‘Set a good example.’ Let your respect and love be seen and felt. It works for children just as it does for all of us.”
The class is in session earlier than we think. Our youth are forming opinions and a self-image based on what they see in the behaviors of those who are important to them. We sometimes forget that children, especially very young children, are incredibly observant and highly impressionable.
They are absorbing and eating up stimuli in their own environments at an astonishing rate. What's more, the presence of technology and our digital culture have only reinforced this.
How we speak and act are the models on which our children will base their own ideas of good and bad, and right or wrong. A big part of empowering young children, then, is setting a good example for them to follow.
What we model for them and how greatly influences what kind of people they will grow up to be.
Let your respect and love be seen and felt. It works for children just as it does for all of us.
When in doubt, think about what motivated you to become who you are today for your kids. Parents become parents because they deeply love children. Teachers become teachers because they deeply love teaching and enabling others. The key word here is love; that is what we must put forth in our intent in both roles.
2. Reinforce a Positive Self-Image
“Our beliefs about ourselves are the single most telling factors in determining our success and happiness in life. A child’s self-image is a direct result of the kind of reinforcement he or she receives on a daily basis.”
When you grew up, what were you conditioned to believe about yourself? What were the mindsets of the authority figures in your life such as older siblings, parents and teachers? Were you raised to be more aware of your abilities and potential, or was the focus on lack and limitation?
Think about what you have had to overcome in your own life as a result of negative reinforcement, and if you’d want the same struggle for your kids and learners. Empowering young children means ensuring they have a healthy mindset about themselves and what they can accomplish in life.
A child’s self-image is a direct result of the kind of reinforcement he or she receives on a daily basis.
As with all other mysteries worth exploring, the key to success is to begin with meaningful questions. Consider these ones below to establish a baseline for where your child is resting with self-esteem right now:
- How are your children feeling about themselves right now?
- Are they confident in their own ability to succeed and solve problems?
- Do they feel they can complete a task with little or no supervision?
- Do they feel good about themselves inside and out?
- Are they feeling smart and capable?
- Do they have a high sense of self-esteem?
- Are they kind and supportive to others?
- Do they understand why all these things are important to leading a healthy life?
Never doubt that as parents and educators we play a crucial role in what our children end up believing about themselves and what their lives can be. Will we spend our time demonstrating to them what can’t be done, or what can be?
3. The Enjoyment of Life
“Once you see a child’s self-image begin to improve, you will see not only gains in achievement, but even more important, you’ll see a child who is beginning to enjoy life more.”
This is a dream come true for any educator and parent. Simply put, a happy child is a healthy and ultimately successful one. Such a child tends to foster healthy and supportive relationships with authority figures and peers alike.
They are more interested in exploring and learning about the world and the people around them. They perform better in school and can end up making more consistently positive life choices. In short, they can look forward to happier and healthier life experiences.
As parents and educators, we play a crucial role in what our children end up believing about themselves and what their lives can be.
Empowering young children is a journey measured in lifetimes, not just a few years. In one child’s lifetime, classroom learning becomes lifelong learning in being the best they can be. As that child grows into adulthood and progresses through life, they pass healthy mindsets on to their own children and learners, who live and teach them in their respective lifetimes.
This is the circle that never ends—it continues on in every generation after us. Never think that the enablement and love you give to a child as a teacher or parent is finite. Indeed, it is the only thing that lives forever.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2018 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.
Originally published Jun 11, 2018, updated October 12, 2021