Encouragement has several steps:
- Listen to yourself or to your body.
- Look at past successes.
- Break tasks into small parts.
- Give a positive message for the future.
Encouragement in Action
A four-year-old boy and his mom were going to swimming lessons for the first time. This little guy was terrified. He was crying and hanging onto his mom. She said, “Honey, it’s OK. We don’t have to go in the water right away. Let’s sit over here on this bench and watch.”
Listen to Yourself or to Your Body
They sat on the bench together. Mom hugged him and said, “Does your tummy feel kind of funny?” He nodded. She said, “That’s good. That’s your body telling you to be careful because you’ve never gone to swimming lessons before.”
Look at Past Successes
Mom laughed and said, “I remember when you were two years old and you hated taking a bath. We would have to wash you up really quickly and get you right out of the tub! And now you can almost take a shower all by yourself.” The little boy smiled.
Break Tasks into Small Parts
Now her son began relaxing a little, watching the other kids splashing in the pool. Mom said, “I wonder if we could sit on the edge and just put our toes in today?” He took her hand and they walked over to the pool.
Give a Positive Message for the Future
Pretty soon this little guy is kicking his legs in the water and enjoying himself. But now the swimming lesson is over. Mom says, “I’ll bet tomorrow, you might be able to go in up to your belly button.”
This is a picture of encouragement.
Now imagine another mom and her little boy. She says, “What’s the matter with you? There’s nothing to be afraid of. Look at all those other kids—they aren’t scared. Why can’t you ever just do what you are supposed to?” She picks up her son, walks over to the pool and drops him into the water.
This is NOT a picture of encouragement.
When and How to Use Constructive Criticism
We can’t always give kids praise and encouragement because sometimes they mess up! Establishing good self esteem doesn’t mean you never say “no” to your child or that you never tell them they did something wrong. Find ways to give your child constructive criticism that focuses on changing behavior, rather than on punishment.
Here are some examples of constructive criticism:
- Whoa! Let’s try that again.
- Stop, rewind!
- Would you like a do-over?
- Unacceptable. We need a new idea here.
- How can we change the rules to make this OK?
- If you were the parent and your child did this, what would you do?
- I love you too much to let you do this.
- I will have to stop you until you learn to stop yourself.
The famous psychologist Abraham Maslow described self-esteem in two forms: the need for self respect and the need for the respect of others. When parents use praise and encouragement wisely, they give their children a priceless gift. Helping your child develop a positive self esteem gives them the ability to manage a not-so-positive world.