Mom Tip Monday: 6 Ways to Encourage Kids

by Heligirl on December 20, 2010

in Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles,Parenting Tidbits,Positive Discipline

How we react to a child’s actions and words can be instrumental in whether children become encouraged or discouraged. It takes practice for even the most well intentioned of us to use encouraging language all the time. Lord knows I still slip up. Remember, in the end, the important thing is to be encouraging more than discouraging.

To help on this journey, below is a list of six examples of how we unintentionally discourage our kids, with each followed by a suggestion of how we can instead use encouraging language to help build self esteem and self worth. Give them a try, and I bet you’ll see some positive responses from your kids regardless of their age.

1.    Focus on Mistakes (Criticize): When we point out mistakes, children believe that they are mistake makers, and they lose sight of the possibility of doing well.

  • Encouragement: Build on Strengths: Accept mistakes as opportunities to learn. Look for parts of the project that are done well and comment on those things. Gently point out things that can be improved. For example, your young daughter is carrying her milk to the table and she spills. Point out that she was trying to be very careful, but spilled. Have her help you clean up the spill and discuss ways to improve, such as walking slower or watching in front of her next time.

2.    Set Negative Expectations: “You always make such a mess! Try to be more careful.”

  • Encouragement: Show Confidence: “That was a difficult decision. I’m sure you’ll work it out.”

3.    Demand Perfection: “You need to spend more time on your homework. If you study hard you should be able to get all A’s.”

  • Encouragement: Appreciate Efforts: Focus on what has been done rather than waiting for a completed job. Show appreciation for the child’s help. Try to avoid fixing what they do if it is at all possible. For instance, your son “made his bed,” but it’s not your standard. Unless you’re showing your home, leave it as he did it and comment on the action with appreciation.

4.    Overprotect: A child’s greatest handicap is the parent who supervises everything a child does, who does too much for him or her, and who protects the child from the consequences of his actions.

  • Encouragement: Stimulate Independence: Encourage children to try new things and do things for themselves. Within the limits of reasonable safety, allow children to live with the consequences of their choices.

5.    Compare and Promote Competition: “Why can’t you keep your room neat like your sister does?”

  • Encouragement: See Performance Through the Child’s Eyes: “It looks like you really enjoyed doing that.”, “I’ll bet you are feeling pretty good about that.”

6.    Use Labels (good, bad, lazy bully, etc): When we label children, they begin to believe those labels and live as if that is who they are.

  • Encouragement: Deemphasize Roles: Encourage your children to do the things that they are not so good at as well as the things that come easy to them. Avoid putting them into a “boxes.”

A common theme in all of these is giving your child attention. Having their words and actions recognized by you is the biggest ego boost of all. Focus on making those interactions positive and encouraging and you’ll foster a happy, capable little person.


Rhona Berens (Parent Alliance) December 20, 2010 at 11:54 am

These are really wonderful tips for kids. After reading them, I’m inclined to suggest you republish them as great tips for how to encourage and communicate well with our spouses, too!
Rhona Berens (Parent Alliance) recently posted: Family Portraits- What Do They Tell Us About Our Relationship

Susan December 20, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Great tips! Just last night, my son spilled half a cup of water on the table. He made some disparaging comment, and I said, “Spills happen. You know what to do about it.” I guess because so many mistakes happen around here, that’s the one area that I have a lot of practice in; and we’re pretty good at seeing those as opportunities to learn. Working on the overprotection, though, especially now that my son likes to prepare some food in the kitchen. Thanks for jogging my memory.
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Jane Nelsen December 21, 2010 at 10:19 am

Love these examples.
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