Empowerment involves helping someone help him or herself. In the context of coaching youth, empowerment is a process of helping the young person identify and apply skills, strengths, and resources to achieving goals. Unlike enabling, which fosters dependence and low self-esteem, empowerment fosters independence and self-confidence.
Empowerment might be likened to the second half of the old proverb, “Give a man a fish; you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish; and you have fed him for a lifetime.” Empowerment is all about teaching young people with ADHD to fish—about helping the young person gain the skills needed to take care of him or herself over the long term rather than to remain dependent or reliant on others.
All young people need to be empowered rather than enabled. All young people need support in acquiring the skills and strategies they will use over a lifetime to achieve their goals and to lead satisfying lives. Yet, for young people with ADHD, empowerment becomes especially important because these individuals often have spent their whole childhood feeling incapable, inadequate, or damaged. Because of their skill deficits, challenges with attention, and other ADHD symptoms, they have continually been treated by others as if they were sick or even “broken.”
Thus, when we empower a young person with ADHD, we are helping that young person take a giant leap forward. This is because empowerment not only helps the young person accomplish goals through his or her own effort and action, but it also helps to change the young person’s self-image at a fundamental level.
When you empower young people with ADHD, their self-confidence grows, their self-esteem elevates, and their belief in themselves expands. As a result, these young people go from saying things like, “I can’t do anything, so why should I try?” to things like, “I believe I can accomplish this goal, so I’ll give it a try.” Through empowerment, young people with ADHD learn to put forth the effort required to achieve their goals rather than giving up before they even get started.
Regardless of your particular role in the life of the young person with ADHD—parent, coach, school counselor, tutor, therapist, and so on—you will be able to help the young person most when you empower rather than enable.
By inviting the young person with ADHD to do things for him or herself—by empowering the young person—you are giving the young person an opportunity to try out his or her “muscles” and see if they work. In the process, the young person learns skills and strategies while increasing independence, strengthening self- confidence and self-awareness along the way.
Empowerment is about much more than helping the young person with ADHD accomplish goals: It’s about helping the young person identify strengths and resources; practice thinking about how to solve problems and meet goals; build skills; develop a positive self-image; and, ultimately, lay a foundation for long-term success in the days, months, and years to come.
By Jodi Sleeper-Triplett, MCC, SCAC, BCC, president of JST Coaching, LLC, a premiere ADHD youth coach training company. Her book, Empowering Youth with ADHD, (2010) provides an in-depth look into ADHD coaching for youth. JST Coaching offers the only training courses focused on the intricacies of coaching youth with ADHD. She is a member of CHADD, ADDA, ACO, ICF and AHEAD and shares her passion for ADHD coaching at conferences and workshops worldwide.