Luckily for many of us we did end up learning for ourselves, often times after years of listening to others telling us who to be, what to do and how to feel, of making disempowering decisions and taking only what was given to us. For many more they too, did learn of their own power after being mistreated, taken advantage of or even assaulted (emotionally, mentally, physically, sexually).
Now as parents raising children, wouldn’t we want to do whatever it takes to empower our children so they can be who they want to be, do what they want to do and create what they want to have? More important, wouldn’t we want to teach them how to own their power so they could stand on their own and take care of their wellbeing and safety when they leave our home?
What I have learned is in addition to making sure that our children’s physical needs are met, we also need to spend more time tending to their emotional needs. Because when their emotional needs are met, they develop higher self-esteem. People with high self-esteem will not go against their own instincts, will summon enough courage to stand up for themselves and will fight back, even when they are alone in their beliefs.
What are our emotional needs? Linda and Ty Hatfield of Parenting From The Heart coined the phrase SPECIAL to represent our 7 basic emotional needs as well as to make it easier to remember. I’m going to cover a few of these needs in this post as they pertain to power. When we give our kids the opportunity to feel their own power such as doing things by themselves and for themselves, we are meeting their need for power (P). Think about the time your daughter wanted to put on her own shoes. Didn’t she beam with pride afterwards…even if she put the left one on the right foot? Did she also yell out, “I did it mommy”? I remember the first time I let my son climb the stairs. I’d put him on the landing so he didn’t have to take too many steps. After he got to the top, he raised his arms up in the same way Rocky Balboa did having scaled the Philadelphia Museum of Arts stairs! These experiences are memorable for us parents and powerful for our kids. As they keep doing an activity (or a chore) and as they become more mature, they get better, their confidence grows and they feel more powerful.
When we give our kids the independence to explore and experiment (E) new things, they feel the power of their ideas, imagination and creativity. Parents need to be mindful of the facts that kids are constantly trying to get their needs met. Sometimes, it’s more challenging for us to help them because we have no experience in and are uncomfortable with letting them take charge. One way we can get used to giving them more rope is to take baby steps. We can ask for their ideas, feelings and thoughts on simple issues such as the food being served at lunch, the bell schedule, the different routes they can take to get to school, etc. As simple as they might seem, these questions, when asked, help us meet their need to feel important (I). When this need is met our kids develop a healthy self-talk such as, “I am important enough for my parents to take my opinions into consideration.” One more need I will bring up every time we talk about our emotional needs is the need to feel loved (L). I’m going to go out on a limb and assert that all parents love their kids. There is no dispute here. Yet, love is a need that needs to be felt rather than heard. We can tell our kids, “I love you” over and over but until they really feel that they are loved, we need to give them more of our time rather than our words.
When all these emotional needs are met, kids feel loved and supported and have a sense of belonging. And when kids feel capable and lovable and belonged, they develop a strong sense of self or a high self-esteem. Again, people with high self-esteem are often able to build enough courage to take a stand, to speak up for themselves and for others and to do the right thing.
More on the rest of our 7 emotional needs in the next post. Until then, let’s take our power back!