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Put-It-Into-Action Advice You Can Trust
Maren Schmidt, M. Ed.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Using Encouragement


A discouraged child is an unhappy child who is prone to acts of undue attention in the form of tantrums, whining, and more; acts of rebellion; acts of revenge, and acts of giving up and assumed disability.  Oh woe is me!

It’s easy to be around a child full of encouragement. He cooperates and contributes to the common good, knowing that he is valued. He is responsible, self-motivated and eager to learn new things.  He interacts with others in a friendly positive manner, forgives quickly, and stands up for himself when necessary.  When facing an obstacle, the encouraged child retreats for a while to regroup and then resumes contact when ready.

Encouraging our children is a powerful parenting tool.  The word “courage” comes from the Latin “cor” or heart.  When we offer encouragement we offer our hearts, our courage, to our children, not praise or rewards.  When we have to face something that frightens us, we want heart, not a cookie or some kind words.

What are the differences among encouragement, praise and rewards? 

With encouragement we offer the idea that mistakes are simply learning opportunities, and that to learn and grow, we all have to make mistakes.  With encouragement we respect the child’s abilities, efforts and integrity to try to do the right thing.  An encouraging phrase or two:  I know you can figure this out.  You’re good at solving problems; I’m sure you’ll figure it out.  I love you no matter what.

Praise and rewards teach our children to depend on external input from others instead of learning to trust their own inner wisdom and standards.  When we offer praise and rewards, we can catch ourselves because many times the first thing that comes out of our mouths is the word “I”:  I’m so proud of you. I want to buy you this because you did that.

If we can swallow our “I’s” and look into our hearts to encourage, we should find a statement that begins with “you”:  You must feel proud of the job you did.  You really worked hard to do that.  You deserve your success. You tried really hard. You’ll learn how to do that better.  You are learning so much.  You work like a trooper. You’re catching on.  You’ve just about got it!  You must have been practicing.  You’re getting better at that everyday. 

Do you see the difference between praising and encouraging?

Praise and rewards get us believing that we are only okay if others tell us we are okay.  Praise and rewards can keep us from trying something new for fear of making a mistake.  With encouragement we learn from our mistakes and keep moving forward trying to do the right thing based on our internal compass.  When we encourage we acknowledge how the other person must feel, and help them move forward in the direction of their choice, not our choice.

When you are feeling irritated, angry, hurt or helpless when dealing with your child, remember you are dealing with a discouraged child.  Look into your heart and find some words of encouragement.  You’ll be planting seeds for your child to feel a sense of belonging, independence, forgiveness, and self-assurance, all attributes of an encouraged child. 

Next Week:  Just Say “No”!  

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