You might be asking yourself, “Why on earth would I want to empower my toddler?” Maybe your toddler has already tried to assert her own power and you are looking for the opposite of empowerment for your toddler. But I’m not talking about empowerment in the sense of giving your toddler authority. I’m talking about giving your toddler a foundation of better self-confidence that she can build on for the rest of her life.
Before I give you my tips, I do feel that I should give you this disclaimer: I am not a pediatrician, a child psychiatrist, a therapist, or anything of the like. And I certainly don’t claim to be a perfect parent. I’m just a regular mom who wants something fierce for her two girls to grow up with confidence. I want them to listen to their guts and not allow the views of others to diminish their boldness. I want them to question what they see in the world and form their own opinions. I also want them to know that momma’s got their back, always-and forever-no matter what. So I want to give them the gift of empowerment and these are the tactics I use. I hope you find them helpful.
Encourage her to try new things.
This might be as mundane as letting her dress herself or as exciting as letter her jump on a trampoline. Either way, encourage her to try. Part of letting her try is letting her make some mistakes, which can be super hard as a parent. Making some mistakes (without seriously injuring herself) will teach her some lessons. She will only try to put her head through the armhole so many times before she learns the correct way to put on a shirt. The other part is to help her when she really needs it – which means you sort of have to be a mind-reader. But you’re probably used to that already being the parent of a toddler. The more she tries and learns how much she can do, the more she will want to do on her own. Of course, this might seem like a double edged sword (and in many ways it is), but ultimately her confidence in trying new things will grow.
Show her she is needed.
Everyone gets a boost from being needed at some level. To be needed means that you have value. Your toddler IS needed. She is an incredible force that can bring a smile to your face on your worst of days and remind you to take joy in the simplest of life’s pleasures without even trying. But those are not needs that a toddler understands. Show her she is needed by telling her the importance of her role in your family. Tell her things like “We are counting on you to pick out a good bedtime book!” or “You are such a great helper. What would mommy do without you?” Let her know that what she does is important.
Give her jobs to do. I find this particularly challenging because my toddler is so small, so it takes some creativity. My toddler’s jobs are clearing the breakfast table (we have a low shelf where she puts the dishes), dusting the low bookshelves, wiping baseboards, helping me sweep (with a toy broom and dustpan), helping water plants, and of course, keeping her toys picked up. I don’t inspect her work (except the toys); I just praise her when she does it. She knows that these are her jobs and that I need her to do them. She also knows that I will hold her accountable. If she doesn’t get her jobs done, we can’t do “fun stuff”. We haven’t yet implemented a chore chart, but I want to do that soon!
Give her information.
Toddlers are incredible question-askers. And as cute as it is a lot of the time, it can be downright annoying. I encourage you to try with all your might to not show her you are annoyed. I know – believe me, I know – sometimes you just want to tell her to Stop.Asking.Questions. But she is asking you questions because her mind is a sponge, thirsty for information. When you answer her questions, you show her that eagerness to learn is a good thing. If you are feeling particularly energetic (because this does take energy), you can even ask her some questions that make her think about something even deeper. When she asks you “Why do we have to do the dishes?” you could say “So they are clean the next time we want to use them,” and you could follow up with “What do you think would happen if we didn’t have clean dishes at dinner time” and engage her in conversation. Encourage her curiosity for information every chance you get (or every chance you have the patience to!). As she gets older, she will automatically seek information and have the confidence to ask questions when it’s important.
Let her make decisions.
Give her the freedom to pick out her own outfit, or what to have for dinner, or which park to go to. Maybe you are not comfortable giving her complete freedom (I know I’m not!). In that case, give her choices. Pick out two outfits and let her choose between them. Ask her “What should we have for dinner, Chicken Alfredo or Mushroom Risotto?” When she says “macaroni and cheese!” simply respond with “That is not one of the choices,” and repeat her options. This is a good chance for her to learn that life has limits. We don’t always get what we want, even when we are the ones who get to pick. Letting her make decisions, and following through with what she decides teaches her that she CAN make good choices. Take it a bit further and tell her why her choice was the best one. “You know, we haven’t had Mushroom Risotto in a long time. I’m glad you picked that.” As much as we don’t want to think about it, she will be faced with some pretty heavy decisions in adolescence. Give her as much practice and confidence in making good decisions as you can before she reaches that age.
I know that a lot of this can feel very time consuming and frustrating (like when you just need to get out the door and your toddler wants to put on her own jacket). Just remember, taking that deep breath and giving her the extra minute she needs will pay off in years ahead. No one wants their teenager to not know how to put on her own jacket. Ok, that’s joke. But seriously, keep the big picture in mind. Confidence down the road is well worth the patience it takes build.
What are your methods for building confidence in your children? Are yours similar to these or different? Please share by commenting below!