“We talk so much about leaving a better planet to our kids, that we forget to leave better kids to our planet.” -Gerry Burnie
Growing up superheroes were part of my life. I sought refuge in the pages of comic books and found an unlikely connection to SpiderMan and the Hulk. As the mom of two boys, I get to relive my childhood intrigue of superheroes. When I watch my four-year-old son think of creative superpowers I think about how we take our innate superpowers for granted. How do raise children who see themselves and others as capable and complete? We help them to awaken their superpowers.
1. The Power of Intrinsic Motivation
All superheroes are intrinsically motivated. Some of the motivation comes from a negative space, such as Batman/Bruce Wayne’s need for revenge and The Hulk’s anger. They take action without coercion or incentives. In our world of helicopter parenting vs. free-range parenting, intrinsic motivation is a happy medium. Kids are naturally self-motivated, it’s just that they’re motivated to do what feels good to them. Not to mention that helicopter parenting, just leads to brilliant but lazy Peter Parkers.
Keep in mind that mental or physical health concerns can affect a child’s intrinsic motivation. If you are looking for ways to unearth your child’s intrinsic motivation, start with a skill used in Motivational Interviewing. OARS is a process in which you do not evoke resistance to change. Through OARS instead of giving advice, shaming, threatening, or lecturing you use the following skills O-Open Ended Questions, A-Affirming Statements, R-Reflective Listening, S-Summary Statements. It’s not a perfect science but it is a start to helping your child become intrinsically motivated.You can learn more about motivational interviewing by working with a trained coach, counselor, or therapist.
2. The Power of Vulnerability
Wait? What?! Yes, most superheroes have superhuman durability but even Superman has a vulnerability.
Vulnerability is a super power because it requires strength to go beyond the facade of being tough, capable, and confident. Vulnerability does not mean your child allows others to take advantage of him/her, it means your child doesn’t strive for perfection but for understanding. Vulnerability helps your child to be brave enough to say “I don’t know” “I need help” “I need support.” Vulnerability allows your child to push past feelings of inadequacy to feeling complete. Vulnerability helps your child learn how to deal with adversity and change. Give your child a safe emotional environment to be vulnerable.
3. The Power to Love
The word “love” has been simplified to indicate our joy or excitement for our favorite foods, movies, etc. Yet love is powerful because it is the precursor to forgiveness, compassion and empathy. It all starts with love. It’s easy to talk about being loving, it’s a challenge to be loving in our daily lives. From harboring resentment, pain and anger to minor grievances, our actions may not always be loving. We can meditate about being loving and then fight the urge to curse out the person who cuts us off in traffic. Love is a superpower because it challenges us to foster empathy, compassion and forgiveness especially to those who act in unloving ways. When children see love in action, they learn to see themselves and others without limitations.
4. The Power of Intuition
There’s something to be said about using your Spidey sense. Intuition is not “woo woo” or spiritual mumbo jumbo. When we tap into our intuition, we are able to sense danger, risks, and. Children are naturally attuned to their “gut feelings”. The problem is that as well-meaning adults, we teach children to doubt their intuition. Our fear of the dangers in the world leads to helicopter parenting and as a result, children become unsure of what they feel. If you are not validating what your child is feeling, you are telling your child what to feel. Giving your child conflicting messages about speaking to strangers clouds their perception of trust. Most children know what feels comfortable to them but the more you tell them how things should or should not feel, they doubt their gut feelings. Instead of telling children they’re overreacting, we can tune in to what they are saying and help them strengthen their intuition. It’s also important that they don’t feel the need to be polite when they are not comfortable around certain people. Mindfulness meditation is a great way to start helping your child check in to what they are thinking and feeling.
Awakening these superpowers in our children is not about raising superhumans but leaving a legacy of servant leaders.
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