NC State
Very Important Parents


Within my professional career, I am in constant contact with children. Most often, children are vibrant self-assured human beings that display limited need for self-actualization, like adults do. But sometimes like all individuals, children may struggle with facilitating self-empowerment.

Children have responsibilities and expectation much like adults do at work, school or in the home environment. A continuous checklist of completing homework, having good grades, displaying good behavior and so forth..are always expected by the parents, and carried by children. Quite frankly, the pressure to excel adds inexplicable weight that at times children are not able to handle, nor accomplish at their fullest potential. At this stage, the emergence of self-doubt and lack of self-empowerment can begin to set in. For children, the thought of disappointing their parents or not measuring up to their peers (socially, physically or cognitively) can be hard to deal with.

I can give you many instances where I witnessed this thought process beginning to show within children. A example that comes to mind was at a private school I used to work for.  Like most, automatically when you think “private”, you think of money, privileged and affluent; and for the most part this observation would be true. To be above the norm of one’s own competitive nature; and the drive from parent’s and oneself to push for exceptional education (and sometimes sports) is pushed, drilled and expected. This in turns, adds great expectation on children; now they are in competition with their peers (because of course at this developmental age competing with others is a must :/ ) but unbeknownst to them they are in competition with themselves and society.

When these challenges get the best of them, behaviors that don’t reflect the child’s personality will begin to emerge. For instance: drop in grades, change in behavior, changes in social circles, lack of communication, self-doubt, lack of self-regulation, etc…

As parents, reflecting on your own expectation for your child(ren) is a great start in combating the onset of negative behavior. Next, providing encouraging words and realistic expectations while accepting and learning from their setbacks can provide children with the necessary tools to be more self-empowered and okay with who they are.

Below are some helpful times to help encourage your child’s self-empowerment and good behavior:

  1. Encouragement Put courage and/or belief in your child. Encourage them to see themselves as they are. Remember that words are powerful, children are like sponges, they soak up everything you say or do. Your words of criticism just like encouragements  can have major impact on children. Take into account the words you use and chose them carefully.
  2. Mirroring Serve as the reflection of your children’s ability, behavior, skills and qualities. Allowing them to “see” themselves as they truly are. Always highlight their accomplishments, strengths and abilities. While giving them a compliment such as:  “Sarah you are so creative. I love your artwork”, become aware of their reaction (facial expression: smiles or physical reaction: hugs).
  3. Highlight their drive/determination- Compliment their hard work, positive behavior and achievements. Acknowledge within yourself and to your child that they are doing their best. Remember Highlighting their display of achievements whether big or small is monumental for your child’s development. It’s okay to pinpoint things they need to work more on, but how you deliver your message is just as important as the message itself. Basically, giving constructive criticism while emphasizing the use of positive feedback is essential.
  4. Teach with positive reinforcements Remember ‘rewarding with praise often led to more positive behavior and increase in self-esteem.’ Pinpointing negative behavior can reduce negative behavior, but it does not increase positive behavior. Teach and reward your child through action and words.
  5. Power of Uniqueness Start at a young age. Ingrain in your child the importance of their authentic self. Encourage them to take pride in their greatest asset and individuality. Continuous use of encouragement throughout their lifespan, can allow your child to easily accept changes, know how to appropriately deal with challenges, and have the ability to self-regulate their emotions more easily.


Be the foundation of child self-empowerment, so that they can build upon what was already established for them.



Bria Sledge is a project assistant at NCSU in the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences. Bria recently received her master’s degree in Liberal Studies and a certificate in Family Life Coaching at NC State. Bria loves working with children and works everyday to improve the lives of children and their families.