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To Raise an Empowered Child, These Are the Words That Matter

“I can be anything that I want to be,” that is what my grandmother told me. And guess what? I believed her. When it comes to raising children, words really matter. What you tell your children becomes their inner voice.

My grandmother lived with us. Her room was my sanctuary. She was a painter, and I was the creative one. I fit in there. I was not obsessed with sports or competition like my siblings; I loved fashion, art, music, and beautiful things. My grandmother had all of those things. Her room was where I went to just be me.

With four brothers, our home life was often focused on sports — the teams, the practices, and then the games. I wanted to dance, design clothes, and draw. With seven children, it was hard, if not impossible, for my parents to do it all. Being the middle child — “the invisible one” — my needs were often unnoticed. But I had my grandmother, Nana, telling me that I can be anything that I want to be.

Why Words Matter

What do you tell your children? Do you have a child that is willful or wonderfully independent? Is he shy, reserved, spirited, or vibrant?

Being a mindful parent is accepting your child exactly where they are. Be conscious of what you say to them — words really do matter. It’s hard not to label children, but when you do, be sure that it’s a positive one because it’s going to stick to them like glue.

Every personality trait has good and bad aspects to it. When my daughter Kayle was young, she was fiercely independent. She wanted to do everything herself and I let her. People used to say to me all the time, “I can’t believe you let her do that!” I realized early on I was either going to be fighting her constantly or letting her try things out for herself, standing close enough to catch her if she fell. It is fun to watch her now as the incredibly brave, independent woman she is.

What we focus on grows, so focus on the good of the child — and they will grow towards that like a plant growing towards the light. Break down all the wonderful aspects of your child and then integrate those words in your day.

Put positive words on sticky notes and then put those on the mirror. You can say, “I like the way that you shared your toy with your sister” or “I love how kind you are to our dog.” At bed time, have your child say things that they are grateful for about you and you say things you’re grateful about for him or her. No matter what happens during the day, you’ll go to bed with a smile on your face and your child will be proud of who he or she is.

When my grandmother said I can be anything that I want to be, it made me feel seen and empowered me to be my best self. Watch your child stand taller and bigger as they go off into the world knowing that you see who they are, just the way that they are.

This article was written by the best-selling author of the Joyohboy children’s book series and the founder of PeacePlaceForKids movement, Kathy Walsh. Learn more about Walsh at


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