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Are You Training or Empowering your Child?

Mar 11, 2008
Recently a mom said to me, "I realize I've trained my daughter to be afraid of me. Now I want to train her to trust me." Have you ever wished you could change how your child perceives and reacts to you? It can be painful to see the results of your actions and words mirrored back to you in your child.

Since getting my horse Destiny, I've often thought about the difference between training a horse and empowering a child. There are similarities between these two because you're relating with another sentient being who perceives and remembers.

Children and horses remember how you treat them, and many of their actions are a result of your actions toward them. When you are gentle and patient, they respond more calmly and willingly. When you neglect their emotional needs and act in ways that are
uncomfortable to them, they don't trust you and feel cautious with you, even when they do what you say.

Training is used to manage behavior in people and horses. Training uses techniques, such as force, repetition, positive and negative reinforcement, to elicit the desired behavior. Training is when you
have an agenda for the other, and you want them to do what you want.

Training is not something you can do with your child's emotions. Emotions are their own separate entity, separate from your child's thought-process. Emotions and perceptions of safety and connectedness come from the inside out. The individual draws conclusions and develops interpretations of reality based on their
unique perception of their life experience, not based on the techniques you use.

Children, even when they are infants, perceive and make decisions based on their own observations and experiences. You may believe or hope that you can control their thoughts and feelings, but you cannot.

You cannot train your child to trust you, to like you, or to feel close and connected to you. You cannot train your child to be happy and loving.

You may think you child needs your guidance to teach him how to be a compassionate, successful person; but what I've seen is that children are independent, autonomous, loving people who are constantly figuring life out for themselves, regardless of what you do or say.

Training creates obedience. Empowering your child nurtures his ability to problem-solve, be creative and self-reliant. Empowering your child helps her feel confident, loved, and joyous.

So what's a parent or educator to do if your child feels insecure or afraid of you? Focus on nurturing your child's emotional wholeness. Make your emotional connection together your highest priority. Make choices from your deep love for your child. Then you'll feel the love and trust between you grow, and those old
behavior challenges disappear.
About the Author
Connie Allen, M.A. of Joy with Children. Connie helps parents and educators who are unsure how to best empower their child. . For information on how you can nurture the joyous inner spirit of children, subscribe to her free e-newsletter "Joy with Children". Visit her blog.
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