As parents, it’s normal to offer praise when children are doing well. It’s a natural response when young people are doing well, but providing encouragement during a difficult time doesn’t always come as easily. Meaningful words of encouragement are often more challenging to come up with, and in certain situations, it can feel like there is no “right” thing to say.
Take a look at the following tips for strategies you can use to encourage your children.
Praise Them for Trying
Don’t save praising your children for times in which they succeed at accomplishing a goal. So much of raising happy, healthy, self-assured people involves providing support during the working phases of their lives.
Pay attention to the efforts they make at accomplishing something and let them know you appreciate their willingness to try, even before they have completed the goal they’re reaching for. Much like cheering on a team during the game, you should cheer for your children while they’re trying something new.
Even if they tried and failed to succeed, take note of the fact that the child put a lot of effort into the task. Praising efforts as well as successes helps your child develop realistic expectations for their own performance. Knowing that nobody is exceptional at everything is a crucial lesson to learn when growing up.
Give Them Agency
While rules are important, not everything needs strict input and guidance. Giving your child agency allows them to choose their own interests and pursue endeavors they will find rewarding. As they do so, encourage the developments that are occurring. Your child is their own person with their own thoughts and feelings, and validating this truth is a great way to encourage healthy growth.
Use More “Do” than “Don’t”
The words you use when providing advice and direction can make a world of difference when offering encouragement. Instead of discouraging one action or behavior, try encouraging in favor of something else.
For example, if you want to encourage your child to make smarter food choices, you could say, “remember to eat a healthy breakfast tomorrow,” instead of, “don’t eat a Pop-Tart in the morning.” Positive reinforcement is usually received more willingly than negative reinforcement.
As a parent, you do not have to be a public speaker. Your kids likely do not expect you to say the perfect phrases every time you talk to them. Encouragement is more about the moral and emotional support you’re offering than it is about the exact words you use. Simply telling your child, “I believe in you,” or “You did your best and I’m proud of you,” can be very impactful when they’re looking for validation.