September is just a few weeks away, which means back to school is on the horizon. This year, my son is going into Grade 1! It was only 10 months ago, my husband and I were deciding whether to send our son to private school.
Like many other parents, we want our son to thrive! Academics is important in the Asian culture, and we also want to him to be a well rounded kid. So we signed him up for extra-curricular activities, like jiu-jitsu, abacus.
Yet, I also understand it is not what we offer our son, but how we interact with him that makes the most impact. We want to ensure he grows up feeling empowered, because for me, I wasn’t brought up this way.
I remember when I was in Gr 4 and 5, I was still in Hong Kong at the time, my mom would physically discipline me every day while studying, which made me really scared of "getting it wrong".
And instilling fear in our children is still a technique that is quite widely used.
One of the mothers I know shared how she would tell her kids that the police would take them away and send them to other families if they don’t practice piano.
And I’d even come across another mother, who glared at her son with an extremely disappointed look on her face, because she believed her son had failed to complete an “easy” task. While the son was crying from frustration.
Do these scare tactics work?
Let’s dive a little deeper to see how these can impact a child’s upbringing
Fear of speaking up
“I can’t say exactly what I want to say because other people will judge me or may hurt me.”
I remember having trouble speaking up to share my ideas at a more public setting (at school or at work). Looking back, I realized it was because I was scared of getting it wrong. My inner critic would question, what if it’s a “stupid” idea? What if I was totally off the mark? Other people would judge or make fun of me.
This also applies to facing conflicts in life and at work. I found it extremely difficult to speak up for myself in the middle of a conflict. I had a lot of fear of possibly getting hurt or getting yelled at by the other person.
I realized how much this fear hold us back, and when we stop speaking up, we start losing our voice.
Fear of rejection
“I can’t do what I want, because my parents will be disappointed in me and will stop loving me.”
For those of us who hold onto this belief that our parents would stop loving us when we do something to disappoint them, we may sacrifice our own identity and desire just to keep them around.
For example, some may go after a career or a position that they are not interested in, just to make sure that their parents will approve of them or keep loving them. This makes their parents feel proud, and may brag about them. But deep down, they may feel a sense of lost. Because they’re essentially giving up their their dreams and identities for someone else’s approval.
Dim their own light
“No matter how much I do, I’m still not good enough.”
For those of us whose parents have very hight expectations, we may keep being shown our flaws.
I remember my mom would keep telling me to stand straighter, or to make sure I’m well put together before heading out the door.
This made me hyper-focused on my own shortcomings, and made me dismiss all the effort I’d put in. I had a lot of difficulty showcasing my achievements, either dismissing them, or letting other people know that I still have all of these things I need to work on. This made it difficult for me to promote myself, and let other people know why they should hire me.
For some people, they may end up feeling de-motivated, because no matter how much effort they put in, it’s still not good enough, so they end up losing the drive to continue.
As a result, all of these create a person who may not be happy where they are. They may feel lost and wonder why they’re doing what they’re doing, yet feeling too scared to try other things. They may even feel trapped because they feel they’re not good enough to do something else to get to another place.
I felt exactly that way going through life, and I wanted my son to know that he is fully capable to do what he wants. So I’d like to share with you three strategies I use to empower my son.
1. Creating a safe space to speak up
Sometimes, my son may say he wants to do something that is contrary to what I want. And even though it may agitate me and we get into a fight, I always thank him afterwards for speaking up. I want him to know that his voice is important, and that it is safe for him to speak up at home.
Home is supposedly the safest space for a child to practice using his/her voice. I want him to know that he is safe to exercise this aspect, because I know how scary it can be to speak up in the real world. If I yell at him, he wouldn’t speak up at home, and why would he speak up outside? So it is very important for me to help him develop an ability to speak up for himself.
2. Letting him disappoint me
This is a concept borrowed from Glennon Doyle. To train my kid to disappoint me.
When I ask my son to do something, he’d usually cry and defy me, because he didn’t want to do what I ask. I’d usually explain to him why, and allow him to choose. While I’m working on being okay for him to choose something that disappoints me.
This is a way for him to explore who he really is, so he can develop his own identity. Through this, he knows full well that he has the freedom and ability to choose, and he also knows that there are consequences through his choices.
I want him to know that the choices he makes are not for us, he’s doing it for himself.
I am fully aware that I will eventually get disappointed from something he chooses, but I’m allowing myself to let go, so I’m not forcing him to follow what I want. And I let him know that I still love him no matter what.
3. Celebrating every win and effort
Every time my son encounters something difficult, I always celebrate the hard times with him. This is especially true when it comes to practicing complex activities or trying something new.
In school, we usually want them to get an A, but in real life, failure is a must. If we ever want to try something new, we will encounter failure. So I want him to understand that things are tough, and it’s okay to fail.
That’s why it is super important for me to sit alongside him to work through the feelings of frustration. And after each activity, I make it a point to let him know how proud I am of him for showing up, for practicing, for getting it wrong, and for working through each difficulty.
I want him to be truly proud of his efforts, and be able to own it and share it with others.
In order to support my son and raise him into an empowered kid, I personally had to heal through my wounds and work through many of my own triggers.
I never really blamed my parents for what they did, because I knew they loved me the best way they knew how. It wasn’t the best execution, and yet, I am responsible for my own life. And I don’t want to pass my traumas onto my son.
Through working on myself, I end up giving myself more love and support, and I can go after my goals and dreams for myself. I’m doing this so I can put my best foot forward to live the life I want. And through this, I am giving my son a chance to put his best foot forward to live the life he can call his own.
If you feel this is something you'd like to work on, I'd love to invite you to book a free consultation session with me! Let do this together, so that you could raise your children to feel more empowered.