Sharpening Your Parenting Skills: Empowerment

by Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC

In early March, a Waco man was arrested for allegedly hitting a child in the face. The story was followed with additional arrests in other instances involving individuals who had sexually abused different children. According to the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Texas, 185 children in the state of Texas become victims of abuse each day. That is a staggering statistic that keeps me wanting to serve and empower more families. April is Child Abuse Awareness and Prevention Month and the Child-Safe Alliance is making efforts to reduce and eventually end all types of child abuse. STARRY is honored to partner with them by providing free counseling for children and families as part of the DFPS STAR program.

Child abuse prevention is a cause that is near and dear to my heart. I work with its victims on a daily basis and have become an advocate for child abuse prevention since I was a child. I remember being in elementary school when I first realized people were capable of hurting others. While some may call it “discipline,” leaving bruises and marks is never okay. Raising kids is difficult when you’re constantly being mom-shamed on social media for letting your kids eat that extra piece of candy. (Mostly because you’re so tired of the constant whining and screaming and all you want is a little peace and quiet!) Besides, we tell ourselves, My parents did that and I turned out okay. But … did we really? The only way to change the next generation is to do a little self-work. And the result could have a HUGE impact in the lives of our children.

What is one way to help families reduce the risk of child abuse and sharpen their parenting skills? I’m glad you asked! Trust-Based Relational Intervention® (TBRI®) is the brainchild of Dr. Karyn Purvis and TCU. From her research, Dr. Purvis found that empowering, connecting, and correcting children can help reduce child abuse and increase attachment and cohesion in families – especially children from hard places. Dr. Purvis published a book called Empowered to Connect, which I highly recommend you read. Over the next three weeks, I’m going to blog about the three principles outlined in the book and how to implement them into your life (with your current family or maybe your future family).

The first principle is empower. We all desire our children to succeed in life through their actions, education, emotions, relationships, etc. Empowerment focuses on using the child’s strengths and fostering a healthy view of self. Power struggles occur in relationships because we all desire to feel in control. Giving your child choices allows him or her to share the control. A word of caution helps set boundaries for the choices. Rather than saying that they can have any kind of snack after school, give them a choices of pretzels, veggie sticks, cheese crackers, or fresh fruit as options for the snack. It will help you keep your sanity and it’ll help you be able to say “yes” to more options. This will also build your child’s confidence in the fact that that they have power and can make good decisions. When kids feel in control of a few things, they are more likely to make better decisions and poor behaviors will likely decrease. There may be underlying issues too, so don’t be afraid to seek counseling for additional support. Next week, I’ll talk more about ways to connect with your child.



Leah Gorham, MAMFC, LPC, is the Team Lead at the STARRY-Waco Counseling office that offers free counseling for children and families. She has been a Kid’s Hope Mentor for the past five years and is currently part of Leadership Waco.

The Act Locally Waco blog publishes posts with a connection to these aspirations for Waco. If you are interested in writing for the Act Locally Waco Blog, please email ashleyt@actlocallywaco.org for more information.

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