Discipline, structure, punishment … none of these changes behavior as fast as the use of encouragement. Some people would say that encouragement is nothing more than love, yet it is really quite different. It is a personal investment from the parent toward the child. Rather than a message about what the child ought to do, it is a message saying what the parent likes about the child. The goal of encouragement is not to help your child be the best; it is to help her try to reach a higher level.
In order to become an encourager you need to remember several things about encouragement. The following guidelines may help you to become an encourager for your child of any age.
1. Notice her effort regardless of the level of perfection she displays.
2. Recognize and focus on her assets and strengths.
3. Provide opportunities for her to make legitimate contributions by asking for her help and providing regular responsibilities.
4. Suggest small steps to accomplish tasks when she needs help.
5. Use humor. Humor often is an effective tool for encouraging self-acceptance as well as imperfection.
• “I love you.”
It is not complicated to become an encouraging parent. If your attitude toward her includes belief in her ability to handle things, you will be an encouraging parent. If you believe in the dignity and worth of her apart from the deed she is doing, you will be an encouraging parent.
Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 681-2250.