Wheaties aren't the only thing that makes champions.
I am best known for teaching kids how to create their own empowering identity. In other words, how do they finish the statement, "I am ..."
Whether an elementary school student or a corporate CEO, how a person finishes that statement defines who they are, their beliefs about themselves and world, and the standards they live by.
It is their identity. It is the driving force behind the behaviors exhibited both in public and in private. Psychologists and psychiatrists will tell you that it is nearly impossible for a person to consistently act in a manner that is not congruent with his or her identity.
So the question is, how do we help our kids cultivate identities that empower them rather than hinder them as they grow?
Kids are born as blank slates. They don't have all the self doubt, self pity and other negative BS (belief systems) that many adults demonstrate on a regular basis.
If they were born with those traits, most children would never walk, speak or feed themselves. They would give up after a handful of failed attempts. In their minds, kids feel born to succeed. They adapt. They overcome. They persevere.
So, what happens as kids grow up? How do the self doubts and negative beliefs creep in?
There is an old saying, "People will live up to, or down, to your expectations." This saying only holds so much truth.
The reality is that people will live up to their expectations. The problem is most people — children and adults — never give conscious thought to what they expect from themselves.
That being the case, how do kids know what to expect from themselves? They learn from the people around them — mostly their parents, older siblings, and teachers. As a parent or adult role model, it is imperative that you discuss and demonstrate what you expect from your kids and what they should expect from themselves.
This brings us to the number one parenting secret for empowering kids: —Be Great!
In my house, we have a ritual that we say goodbye to each of our children as they're leaving for school, a sporting event or just to go out. I'm sure you have a similar ritual. You kiss them. You hug them. You tell them you love them with excitement and enthusiasm ... but we also make sure that the last thing we say to them is "be great!" They then reply, with matching vigor, "I am!"
It seems like a little thing, and it is, just like an individual brick is a little thing. But, when combined with other tools and materials (like the other nine parenting secrets for empowering kids), each brick provides the foundation upon which an empowering belief system is truly built.
It takes time to create habits and thought patterns. According to different experts, it can range from days to weeks. I've found that about 21 days is the norm for creating lasting effects. Multiple times each day your child will be, constantly, reminded that he or she is great. Their verbal and physical response then anchors the same affirmation in their subconscious mind. Over time, the connections between different parts of their brain grow so much stronger that it literally becomes part of their brain chemistry.
This is not about driving your kids relentlessly or being a "tiger mom."
This is about giving your kids the tools and guidance to make positive, healthy decisions for themselves.
It's not about self-esteem; it's not about feeling good or about trying and failing; it's about success!
It's about kids cultivating enough authentic inner-confidence to try things out, and the perseverance to keep going (especially when things get tough). Kids flourish into the best, truest version of themselves when you believe in them.
Tell your kids "be nothing less than great." Be outstanding. Be whatever your power word is, to which their response is, "I am!" You'll find yourself amazed by the growth over a relatively short period of time.
Mark Papadas is a nationally recognized children’s empowerment expert and author of the highly acclaimed book "10 Secrets to Empower Kids and Awaken the Child in You," as well as President of The I AM 4 Kids Foundation— a recognized 501c3 charity committed to providing its personal empowering programs to public schools across the U.S. at no cost to the schools. Connect with Mark through his FREE Parenting & Coaching Newsletter.
This article was originally published at Mark Papadas. Reprinted with permission from the author.