We all want to make sure that our kids feel confident, brave, self-assured, and empowered to do anything that they want to. This is true for right now in childhood, but also in preparation for the future as adults. But, sometimes those positive messages are overrun by self-doubt, fear, worry, or low self-esteem.
One of the most effective play therapy tools for counteracting those negative feelings is encouragement. I have written several articles about the encouragement skill in play therapy for helping kids build confidence and self-worth. This skill focuses on the child’s effort and can be given no matter the outcome. Here are a few examples of how encouragement can be implemented to help kids to feel proud of themselves and internally motivated:
- You know so much about that.
- You kept trying until you got it!
- You figured it out.
- You never gave up!
- You worked really hard on that.
- You should be proud of yourself.
Another play therapy principle that helps kids feel empowered is choice giving. Previous articles have addressed that choice giving reduces power struggles, but there are different reasons to provide children with choices. One of the options is for empowerment, as the child learns how to make his own decisions and believe in his own ability to handle situations. Here are a few examples of choice giving for empowerment:
- You can choose to have an apple or grapes for a snack, which do you choose?
- You can choose to ride in the front seat or the back seat, which do you choose?
- You can choose the red shirt or the blue shirt, which do you choose?
- You can choose to have lemonade or milk with dinner, which do you choose?
- You can choose to run to take a shower or skip, which do you choose?
Another helpful approach for empowering kids is exposing them to examples of empowerment, strength, courage, and resourcefulness. These are often found in children’s books, as kids relate to the characters in the story.
One example is found in the book, Nina the Neighborhood Ninja by Sonia Panigrahy. Nina is faced with all sorts of dilemmas and challenges in the book, and meets them with problem solving, bravery, creativity, and heart. She feels empowered to make her neighborhood better by being thoughtful and kind, and she receives a thank you at the end that reminds little ones that doing good is always the right thing.
Empowerment is available to all, but sometimes children get caught up in wanting to do things for others’ reactions, praise, or acknowledgment. These tools will help to ensure that your little ones are becoming strong and feel equipped to handle anything because they believe that they possess what it takes to achieve their goals.