How Do You Empower Your Kids?

Kelly Curtis - Professional speaker, writer and counselor*** Monthly Feature Column ***

Positively Speaking
Building Assets in your Kids

March 2007
How do you empower your kids?

by Kelly Curtis.

This week, I completed and submitted to my editor the first two chapters of my book, so “empowerment” has been on my mind a lot lately. Empowerment is one of the eight categories, in Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets.

In it’s simplest form, empowerment is helping someone to help herself — the “teach a man to fish” philosophy. Last week, I watched the TV special about the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy, and was struck by how perfectly it illustrated the idea of empowerment. She’s selected gifted, but impoverished, South African girls, and invited them to live and learn at her state-of-the-art complex. Potentially, these girls will lead their country some day.

None of us has the kind of resources that are available to HARPO productions, but as parents, we do have a special opportunity to empower.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Celebrating Mothers and Daughters was released on Wednesday, and it features a story I wrote about my mom.

As a single parent, my mother empowered me a lot. I had responsibilities and she always made me feel I was completely capable of managing them. This was partly unavoidable, because she was a single mom. When I took an interest in something, I needed to want it badly enough to work for it — or it wouldn’t be possible.

Although my kids are fortunate to have two parents in the household, I still try to empower them in their own responsibilities and interests. When my daughter’s voice teacher started reciting to me all the things she needed to practice, I pointed to D and said, “This is her responsibility, not mine.” Even small things — like making their breakfasts, or packing a picnic lunch — I leave to the kids. They mess up a lot, but I know it’s better to forget the mayo on a sandwich they made, than to wait around their whole lives for someone to feed them.

I’d love to hear what you’re doing to empower your kids. How do you “teach them how to fish?”

Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.

by Kelly Curtis
Pass the Torch


  1. says

    I encourage my children to make their own transportation arrangements. At 13, my daughter knows the bus schedules and rides the bus wherever she wants to go (it’s safe here) and at 10-1/2, my son rides his bicycle or walks and my daughter finds friends to take her one way and we take them the other. This has taught them how to plan and has given them the freedom to get places even when we can’t take them.

  2. says

    Our son has belong to a local chapter of Teen Korps. Through his volunteer opportunites we have seen him mature and take more advantage of opportunites, present to him. I knew we were on the right track, when his Boys and Girls Counselor told me that whatever we were doing please continue because of his growth.

  3. says

    My kids are responsible for choosing their own outfits for school, fixing their breakfasts and school lunches, folding laundry and washing and drying dishes. They are also responsible for making sure their homework is completed before any video games are played. Even my 4-year-old helps wipe dishes and my 2-year-old helps put the laundry in the dryer. They don’t necessarily like this, but they will thank us later in life when they don’t have to struggle with responsibilities.

  4. says

    My son is 6 and can tell you the nutritional content of nearly every food he eats. He has severe food allergies and even though I select the foods he eats, he is responsible for knowing what is safe for him and what is not. This knowledge gives him confidence that if I’m not around he can keep himself safe and not go hungry. My 3 year old is also learning the “rules” and both are learning to cook safe and healthy foods. Though the 3 y.o., like her mother, still thinks (dairy-free) chocolate should be one of the 4 main food groups!

    I am also teaching them to pray. We have no power on our own and they don’t need to rely on me to bring their needs to their Father.


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