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 for more information.

The Helper v. The Helped

by Craig Nash

Over the past year I have used this space to highlight the “embarrassment of riches” Waco has with regards to organizations and individuals who devote themselves to addressing poverty and alleviating food insecurity in our most vulnerable citizens. We truly are a model for what can happen when stakeholders in a community see a need and spring into action to ensure that the need is met. Long before out-of-towners were trekking to the Heart of Texas to linger around two abandoned, rusted out grain silos, they were coming here to learn how to organize around a common good from our many churches and nonprofits who have been at this for a long time. I hate to think what this city would be without all of this, but I wonder sometimes if, in the process of all this helping, we have inadvertently created a situation that we need to be helped out of?

And I’m not talking about the “savior complex” that do-gooders often get labeled with, though that is certainly a concern. But that is a diagnosis best left to professionals, not armchair therapists looking for a reason to assuage their guilt over not being a part of social action. Instead, I’m referring to the lines of demarcation that are reinforced in communities between those who are giving help and those who receive it.

There’s a quote from Fred Rogers that makes the rounds on our social media feeds when a tragedy of some kind occurs—

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of disaster, I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers – so many caring people in this world.”

Quick, without thinking, when you read this, who do you picture in your mind as the “helper?” If you are like me, you thought of paid, professional helpers—Cops; Firemen; EMT’s; Doctors; maybe clergy. But more importantly what do these helpers look like in your mind? Their vocations aside, do they look like people you go to church with, have over for cookouts, or sit next to at the bar during Happy Hour? Or are they people from “other” neighborhoods, who go to “other” churches and frequent “other” establishments of commerce? It’s likely that they looked more like the former than the latter. They did for me.

We have fairly fixed categories in our minds for who the helpers are and, conversely, who is receiving help. In some ways this is inevitable. But when we aren’t deliberately conscious of this, we create harmful lines of separation and, really, of elevation. These lines not only heighten the stigma of needing help, they also make it difficult for the helpers to make connections with their neighbors, connections not based on what can be given away, but what can be mutually shared with each other. Helpers need to be open to be helped, and not just in the sense of being “blessed by helping,” but in actually being in a place of dependency on “the other.”

I don’t know this looks like across the board, though I do have some possibilities swirling in my mind, and I suspect you do as well. I’d love to hear how you, dear Act Locally Reader, wrestle with the idea of breaking down these lines of distinction between “helper” and “helped,” and if there are any practical suggestions you have found to guide our community along. Do you see anyone in Waco doing this especially well? In your “dream world,” how does this play itself out? Please share your thoughts in any of the numerous venues we share our thoughts these days— comment sections of Act Locally or Texas Hunger Initiative, when you see me at the coffee shop or when you decide you want to email me your thoughts at Especially helpful thoughts and conversation may just make it in my next Act Locally Blog.

Craig Nash has lived in Waco since 2000. Since then he has worked at Baylor, been a seminary student, managed a hotel restaurant, been the “Barnes and Noble guy,” pastored a church and once again works for Baylor through the Texas Hunger Initiative. He lives with his dog Jane, religiously re-watches the same 4 series on Netflix over and over again, and considers himself an amateur country music historian.

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 for more information.