My youngest daughter Kai dances to the beat of a bongo drummer somewhere off the South African coast. Seriously, she does! If my other two daughters are doing the popular Wobble line dance, she is somewhere Salsa dancing. Kai is one of the most independent thinking 5-year-olds that you will ever have a conversation with. Her inquisitiveness fosters an environment for her to dream whatever her mind can conjure up. That’s why when her sister asked her what her favorite color was, it was no surprise to me that my child’s voice confidently responded, “Rainbow and pink!” Of course, my older daughter was not happy with Kai’s response. “You can’t choose the entire rainbow plus another color as your favorite. You have to pick one!” “No, I don’t. You asked me my favorite and I told you.”
As I sat back and marveled at how well she was able to stand her ground, I realized that even as parents, we can sometimes be very guilty of trying to make our children conform to what society deems as “normal” or “right.” Normally, your favorite means just one over all the rest. But who said that we couldn’t have several choices tied for that most coveted spot?
Maybe your son has more of an interest in performing in the dance company than being a linebacker. Perhaps your daughter gravitates towards the tool and construction set before she picks up a Barbie in the dollhouse. Or maybe, your child is like mine and every flavor, color or style is their absolute favorite. As trivial as these choices may seem to us, they are very big and relevant decisions in the lives of our mini-mes. We should be respectful, and even encouraging of their creative choices.
We have to remember that our children are people. Little people, but people nonetheless. They have very real feelings, preferences, and opinions. It is important that we do not get so caught up in playing dictator that we miss the opportunity to allow our children to share their own voices. Empowering them early to speak up will assist them later in life when they must advocate for themselves. Be careful not to silence a child’s voice. Here are three small ways to empower their voices.
1) Acknowledge that your child’s voice and preferences are valid.
Can you imagine how you would feel if someone always tried to make you conform to what they felt was right? It wouldn’t feel that great to you and it doesn’t feel good for our children either. Affirm their voices any opportunity that you can.
2) Be an active participant in their creative thinking processes.
It is okay to go along with your children’s imaginative behaviors. Everything may not make perfect sense to you, but it will encourage them to think and dream big. Need help to spark your child’s creative thinking? Find 25 ways how to here.
3) As the adult, know the limitations of their opinions and preferences.
As much as I would love to let my daughter be a completely free thinker, I would be an irresponsible parent if I let her make all of her decisions based on her wildly, creative mind. Kai’s desire to choose a fallacy unicorn as her favorite animal may be harmless, but I have to draw the line when she wants to build an actual unicorn corral in my backyard!
The best thing that you can do to empower your child’s voice is to create an environment that encourages and welcomes their opinions and thoughts. If your daughter wants to choose the entire rainbow plus pink as her favorite color, support her decision!