The Parenting Coach: Empowering Independent Thinkers

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Recently, I had the pleasure of speaking at the CCPPNS Annual Conference.  For those of you unfamiliar with the organization, California Children’s Parent Participation Nursery Schools, it is a statewide organization founded on the principle that the best education results from an active participation among parents, teachers and children.  After having spent so many years teaching in the classroom, I cannot agree more with the principle that a solid education depends largely on parent involvement.  Furthermore, I happened to have attended a co-op nursery school myself, back in the day.

In preparing for my workshop, I took a trip down memory lane to recall my own co-op experience.  The memory that stuck out most prominently was that of the Designated Carrot Peeler.

Our nursery school trained and employed a daily Designated Carrot Peeler to provide the crunchy snack for all students.  This meant that, each day, a different child was taught how to peel a carrot.  Not only were we empowered with this new skill, we were further empowered with the fact that we were (in some small way) self-reliant.  No longer were we at the mercy of an adult to peel a carrot for us.  Having the skill to prepare our own snack also meant having the ability to provide peeled carrots to fellow classmates.  How truly empowering!  And, as if that wasn’t enough, these carrots were made available for consumption throughout the day.  That is to say that no one doled out carrots to us at a designated snack time.  We were given the respect and the responsibility to help ourselves to a carrot only if and when we wanted one.  The respect and empowerment that I felt as a result of this silly little activity made such an impact on me, that I can recount it over 30 years later.

I often talk to parents about empowering kids.  As adults, we are usually sure we know what is best.  It’s also faster to dictate how things will happen, rather than open up for discussions or allow for the sometimes slower pace of a child.

However, we all want to raise children who are self-reliant, responsible and independent.  The only way to achieve that is by giving them opportunities to test it out along the way.  Learning new skills, contributing within the classroom or at home, and being trusted to make decisions are all ways in which children begin to feel empowered.  By giving them these opportunities, we help them to feel capable, reliable, responsible and trusted.  A child who knows he is being counted on, is more likely to act responsibly than a child who has been given the message that he is not trusted to make the ‘right’ decisions.

What opportunities can you find for your child to feel empowered?

  • Inviting them to make the salad for a family dinner
  • Empowering them to do their own laundry
  • Trusting them to resolve their own battles without the intervention of Judge Mom
  • Counting on them to regulate their own screen to homework time ratio (I know.  I know.  I can hear the outrage on this one but, what if…?)

Ultimately, raising independent, responsible and cooperative kids is not the result of any one tactic or technique.  It requires a shift in approach and a vision of the end result.  How are your actions today helping or hindering your goal of raising independent, responsible and cooperative kids?

Gila Brown, M.A. is a Child Development Expert and Parent Coach, with over 10 years of teaching experience. She specializes in parenting school-age children with grace, using principles of attachment parenting, positive discipline and effective communication. Visit to sign up for a free newsletter.

© Gila Brown, 2009

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About Karen Young

Karen Young is the founder of My Daily Find.

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