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Empowering Youth - Say YES! - January 2003

I recently had foot surgery and during a rather painful recovery, my home office chair broke and needed to be sent back to the manufacturer. With very calculated movements, so as to not further injure a sore foot, one morning I got down on the floor to begin disassembling the chair for shipment.

Irritable from the pain, I had just begun to work on the first bolt when my four-year-old son appeared. My immediate thought was, "Oh, please don't tell me you need something!" But instead, his simple question was, "Can I help you mommy?"

In so many situations, a four-year-old's help is really NOT help, but rather just a valuable experience. The UPS truck could have been coming within the hour or I could have been assembling the chair, rather than taking it apart. But this was a perfect opportunity - and it didn't have to ship until afternoon. My answer was "YES". I loosened all the bolts and handed him the tools.

As I got back on the couch with my foot up and iced, there was a running conversation between us, with multiple expressions of "I DID it!" He problem-solved, found new ways of using the tools and ultimately, with very limited guidance and assistance, finished the job he offered to start. This was much more than a valuable experience for him - this was an important contribution. And the reason he did it? "'Cuz I didn't want your foot to hurt."

Certainly, young children are willing to help, love to do what you do and they are very impressionable and moldable. It can be relatively easy to empower young children even when it is the adult's idea, rather than the child's. Teenagers, on the other hand, tend to be more wary and their defenses are far better established, though their needs are quite similar. The beauty of this example with my son is that it was entirely HIS idea. He had ownership of it from the very beginning. My most important role in the process was to say "YES".

Empowering youth is not necessarily a program or something that is implemented by a committee. It is a choice each of us can make by integrating the belief system into our daily lives. And the best ways to empower youth are probably not our ideas, but rather the ideas of youth.

What will you say the next time you have the opportunity to empower a young person? Prepare to say YES!

Empowering Youth - Say YES!
©2003 Kelly Curtis, www.empowering-youth.com

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