Raising Empowered Kids

Raising Empowered Kids

What kids need:

But there’s something else.

When a child misbehaves, my parenting teacher Dina Friedman explained this week, frequently that is a child’s way of telling you that he or she is starving for POWER.*

So how do we give our children power?

Here’s a few power-providing suggestions from Dina:

1. Offer a Neutral Choice- Offer a free choice between 2 or more acceptable options
“Do you want the vanilla or the chocolate ice cream?”
“Do you want to go to this playground or that one?”
“Would you like to wear these pants or the other ones?”

2. Increase Responsibilities:
A few ideas:
Give child a key to the house
Teach child a new skill (such as cooking, baking, folding laundry, changing light bulbs)
Allow child to make an activity/summer camp for neighborhood children
Put a child in charge of using the remote to open the garage door
Appoint child the “Minister of Drinks” so she is in charge of filling up the juice pitchers during meals

3. Allow children ownership of their…

Possessions: Request permission before looking in your child’s schoolbag or private drawer, for example.
Their bodies: Request permission before brushing a child’s hair or washing off their face, for example.
Their minds: Don’t force children to share information (unless you are concerned they are in danger)
Their friends: Let your children choose their own friends (unless a relationship is harmful)
Their space: Knock before entering their bedroom, for example.

4. Let kids be in charge of something without having to ask you:
Letting older children have cookies/snacks after school without having to ask permission
Letting children take certain foods (such as cereal) without permission
Giving a small weekly allowance after age 8

5. Ask your child for advice:
“I’m trying to figure out where to hang this picture, what do you think?”
“We’re out of flour, and I need to make a cake. What do you think we can do?”

6. Play “King Shlomo” or “Queen Esther”:
I thought this was a brilliant idea. Can’t wait to try this one out. Put a crown on your child’s head, and say “You are King Shlomo” (or, for a girl, “You are Queen Esther.”) Present a problem that that child is struggling with and say, for example, “King Shlomo, David has been having a problem that he loses his shoes every day. What do you suggest as a solution to help him remember to place his shoes in the right place?” This exercise empowers children by enabling them to take responsibility for their own problems, rather than forcing our solutions on them.

And another idea from me. A few months back, I had a great idea for empowering my 4-year-old son, Yoel. Yoel would come into my room bright and early every morning and start hitting his baby sister, Tsofia. But one morning, I had a lightning bolt. I told Yoel that he was Tsofia’s “bodyguard,” so if anybody came to hurt Tsofia, he needed to protect her. And Yoel’s been a fantastic bodyguard every single morning ever since…

JewishMOMs, do you have any other empowering ideas that have worked for your children?

*Dina Friedman explains that there are 2 basic kinds of misbehavior. Stage 1 Misbehavior (for example: crying all day, wants to be picked up many times a day, always acts sad or moody, talks in a whiney voice, annoys others, interrupts your conversations) signals the need for increased attention. Stage 2 Misbehavior (making unreasonable demands, pushing limits, defiance) signals the need for power.

Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Stephanie Ezcurra


  1. We have always offered our children neutral choices eg cereal, sandwich filling etc on the premise that small children don’t have a lot of choice in other areas. One of the grandparents used to ask why we were doing this, but once she saw our four year old daughter ordering competently from a menu (we had to read it to her!), she stopped asking! We encourage the children to make their own way to friends etc and last week, two of our daughters took their younger sister out to buy shoes. I had agreed the shoes before and gave instructions about fitting and it was a win all round situation – i didn’t have time to go, she got her shoes and they felt good that they had taken her.

  2. I find this issue so difficult with my 3 and half year old boy- hes between 2 girls ages 5 and 6 1/2 and 2 1/2 year old and 7mos old baby and when Im one on one with him, he loves to help me and make decisions and hes very loving and easy going, but between evryone he really either whacks his younger siblings or wants dafka- on purpose- the opposite of what the girls want to do, eat, go to the park…they make their own pacts and trades between them to coerce one another into their own ideas but I really want incorporate this into our group and see results that will stop him from acting out, throwing things or sometimes even calling everyone stupid the whole day…i feel bad punishing him and taking away things he likes all day, maybe I’ll make him King this afternoon and see how it goes.

  3. TERRIFIC article, so insightful. Definitely keeping this in mind as my son gets closer and closer to the terrible two’s.

  4. When my two girls are arguing, I ask them to come up with a solution as to what to do. That way I don’t have to rack my brains trying to figure out what to do in each situation -I always leave it up to them and they always manage to come through.

Leave a Reply

Follow by Email