Choose to Empower Your Kids

There's a woman's rights issue brewing in the north African country of Tunisia right now, and it's casting a shadow on the great accomplishments of Olympian runner Habiba Ghribi. This impressive athlete became the first Tunisian woman in history to medal at the Olympics. Ghribi won silver in the 3,000-meter steeplechase during the London games.

What makes her win all the more impressive is that it is the first medal this tiny nation has won since 1972. “This medal is for all the Tunisian people, for Tunisian women, for the new Tunisia,” Ghribi told reporters after the race, according to France 24 news service.

But instead of applauding her accomplishments, some of her Islamic countrymen would rather strip her of her medal. Why? Because they disapprove of her running gear, saying her dress goes against Islamic code. 

Why do I bring this up in a parenting column? Because I wonder how often we do the same thing to our children. Instead of focusing on the accomplishment our child has earned, we zero in on how her achievement falls short of our expectations or personal code. Maybe our child didn't do the task as we would have, maybe we feel a sense of jealousy, or we compare them to their sibling, lauding how when Jack played baseball, he had even more home runs.

My good friend Susan in high school was academically excellent, frequently making the Dean's list, yet her parents often found a way to minimize her accomplishments. "What, you only got a B+ in science? Surely you could have earned an A," they would say. Worse, her parents sometimes elected to say nothing at all. Their indifference and lack of acknowledgement worked to undermine Susan's sense of competence and self-worth.

We forget how much our children desire our approval.

Yes, even during the teen years, when their surliness might suggest otherwise. Kids look to us to validate their choices and achievements. If we choose instead to play down the important milestones in their lives, we run the risk of undermining their abilities.

In the case of Ghribi, years of training and commitment to a goal have yielded victory. That her countrymen would choose to diminish this because she is a woman is telling. The nation is on the brink of change. They have the opportunity to use Ghribi's win to uplift or to beat down their nation. We hold the same power with our children. How will you use it?

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