Children are wonderful beings, most of the time when they’re not making mommies and daddies pull their hair out. I know this for a fact because I have two beautiful children and yes, sometimes I want to pull my hair out. I am consoled by the fact that they both angels when they are in the homes of others and they just save their crankies for mom and dad.

Well, a couple of weeks ago I took my eldest son out on a playdate to our science museum followed by lunch at the Spaghetti Factory Restaurant. Four 7 year old boys and Four moms. Yes, we were pretty loud. 🙂

The museum was great and a splendid time was had by all. Then we were off to lunch.

At lunch the waiter sat us at a large group table and handed everyone their menus. All the kids were on one side of the table and the moms on the other end. My son sat across from me. My son is 7 so he knows how to read now so he looked at his menu. Here’s the conversation

Me: “Hey Buddy, Do you know what you want?”

Alex: “Yes, I do.”

Me: “Ok, great.”

The waiter, after filling our water glasses, came back to take our orders. Each mom/child pair ordered so we could have our separate bills. Alex and I were last. Each mom before us ordered for herself and then ordered for her son. At my turn I ordered my soup and salad and then said to Alex, “Your turn.”

He proceeded to order for himself. It went something like this:

Alex: “I’d like the chicken tenders please”

Waiter: “With soup of salad?”

Alex: “What type of soup do you have?”

Waiter: “Minestrone”

Alex: “I’ll have the soup please.”

Waiter: “And what would you like to drink?”

Alex: “I’ll have milk with that, please.”

And the was that. The waiter didn’t even think twice about taking the order from a 7 year old boy and actually conversing with him without a second thought about me. It was then that I noticed that we were the only mother/son pair that did this. The interesting part about it is that I don’t even think the other mother’s noticed what I had done. Food arrived and we had a blast. Would it have been easier for me just to order for both of us? Sure. But there’s no lesson in that. No teachable moment. Instead:

I had empowered my son to take control of his choices.

I knew he’d make the correct food choices because he’s been ordering for himself for a while. Yes, he’s only 7 and there are plenty of choices he is not going to make for himself yet. That doesn’t mean empowerment can’t start at a young age.

Now here’s the back-story. I learned this from my friend and Mentor Mark Hoverson. Maybe a year ago now, Mark told a story about how when he takes his son out to eat he has him order for himself. Since Mark’s kids are my kids age, his story resonated with me. It was just one way of helping empower his son.

Far too many times in life we as parents coddle and enable our children, moms especially because we want nothing bad to happen to our babies. I get this. That’s me a lot of times. Granted sometimes this is necessary so they don’t truly harm themselves. Jumping out of a tree house usually ends up in someone getting hurt. Bad choice.

So, Mark’s story brought me to the thought that this is one way of empowering my son and we started the practice almost immediately after that powerful mentoring story from Mark.

Empowering versus Enabling. How many times in life do we truly empower our friends or our colleagues? And if we’re not empowering then are we enabling them to continue to live a life less than they want because it is easier?

Come check out my vision for empowering people by clicking this link.

Also, let me know what you think about my story…drop a comment below and share this with others. You might just impact someone elses day and I’ll appreciate hearing from you.

All the best,

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Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 21 comments
Dr. Bob Clarke - December 6, 2011

Hi VaNessa,
I had to chuckle when you talked about how your kids are angels for others but not for you guys. That’s exactly what we were always told when our kids were growing up. They would go to someone else’s house and be incredibly well behaved. When they got back to our house, all hell broke loose.

I am told that this means we are doing something right as parents. Seeing how they grew up, I tend to agree, but it sure didn’t feel that way at the time.

As for enabling vs. empowering, I believe this is something all parents struggle with. We want the best for our kids, but sometimes the “best” is to let them fall down and have to pick themselves up. It’s just hard to watch as a parent.

As a mentor or coach, the same holds true. Failing is a prelude to success. In fact, I’ve heard it said that the more times you fail the greater your chance of succeeding. This makes sense to me. As coaches, I believe we need to be cheering on our students to try, try and try again. When they fail, we should be pointing out the positives, as in what they learned in the process. Then you will see true growth.

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 6, 2011

    Brillant observation Dr. Bob. Empowering others even if they fail a time or two so very powerful. And I had to laugh — I sure wish parenting came with a manual. Sheesh.

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ellen - December 6, 2011

Things that make you go hmmmm – thanks for a thought provoking post – sometimes they grow up before you even notice. time to let caleb order for himself… hope you are well – ellen

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Fernado Herrera - December 7, 2011

Thanks VaNessa, Great article. My kids are grown ups, I remember always giving them the opportunity to make choices on every little thing like:
“Dad what shoes should I put on?”,
“Which ones do you prefer?”
“My boots”
And my usual response was “Yeah? and why do you want to wear your boots?”
Giving him the opportunity to weight their answer and for me to make a correction if it was necessary.

I did that just by instinct. Not a big deal. After listening to Mark and now you, I said Oh! I was empowering my kids.

Well,.. in their pre-teens they were entrepreneurs, Lemonaid stands, news paper delivery and they surprise me when they hired other kids for their “Car Wash” venture. The only bad part was that I was their investor.

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 13, 2011

    You’re right Fernando, it about helping make little choices. I have let my kids go out in mismatched clothes because that is what they wanted to wear. I have no problem with that 🙂 We’ll see what the future of empowering my children brings!

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Adrienne - December 7, 2011

That’s a great story VaNessa… I don’t have children but I grew up in a very strict household. Whenever I’m out with my friends kids, I make them behave in public if their own parents aren’t so I can tell you how my kids would have acted.

I love that you let your 7 year old order. Mark’s story is a great one to share and I’m sure the kids feel really great about contributing themselves. Of course, when they are taught to make good choices, that definitely helps.

Thank you for sharing this with us. I loved it! 🙂

~Adrienne

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 13, 2011

    Adrienne,
    I love that you make friends kids behave. I do the same thing…I have told other friends kids to settle down or have manners. It’s just natural to want others to be respectful. I totally resonate with that. Thanks for stopping by. V-

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Cat Alexandra - December 7, 2011

Hi VaNessa,

Oh this was so fun. What a great anecdote about empowerment. And I can only imagine how proud you must be of your progeny!

This reminds me of a fun statement which was shared with me last night: The greatest good we can do for others is not to share our riches with them, but to reveal to them their own.

Much alike what you inspire of your son. 🙂

Thanks for the great life analogy! I think this is something to always keep in mind when we are working in some capacity with others. Go-giving at it’s finest!

Cheers VaNessa!
Cat Alexandra

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Jewel Okwechime - December 8, 2011

Great! Thanks for sharing a personal story! I loved reading this! I am all about empowering others and this article is well written.

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Ken Pickard - December 8, 2011

VaNessa,

As a father of 5 I’m always looking out for life lessons. Those times when we get to impart some sense of empowering onto my kids. Weather it’s having them earn their own money or order there own food, they can do it.

I love how the waiter didn’t think twice about taking the order from your son. that is another sign that your son was able to complete the task himself.

Confidence can not be taught in school it must be learned. I’m thankful for parents like you who show our next generation how they can empower themselves.

Thanks for sharing a wonderful story.

Ken Pickard
The Network Dad

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 13, 2011

    Parenting is the hardest role on the planet. We must do the best we can to raise our children with great values and self-esteem. Lovin’ it.

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Nicky - December 9, 2011

Hey Vanessa, I heard that same story from Mark Hoverson too and started implementing the same for my children, who now think it is normal to select their own meal and talk to the waiter. My daughter has always been naturally chatty (and indecisive!) so it was not a problem to implement, whereas my son used to put his head down and only talk to those who knew him well so it has been more work with him (yet he is the older of the two)!
Thanks for sharing,
Nicky

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 13, 2011

    This is a great story Nicky. I love to hear about children who are empowered by their parents. Yes, each child is different. They are so fascinating. 🙂

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Faith@RushcardPro - December 14, 2011

I love to hear that some parents are doing their parenting to their kids..They are raise their kids in a good way..Thanks for sharing this inspiring post..

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Allen - December 17, 2011

Awesome post Vaness. I don’t have any children but I can certainly start using this with my younger nieces and nephews. It’s important to empower our children. It’s important for them to be independent too. Regardless of how much we want to “protect” them.

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    VaNessa Duplessie - December 19, 2011

    Hi Allen,
    So true, empowerment and protection…hmmm. good thing for me to think about to blend the two. And yes, any child we can have a positive impact on will greatly help the world.
    VaNessa

    Reply
Joanie - January 24, 2012

Great post Vanessa. Parenting is definitely about empowering. I agree. Great story.

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