By Kathy Hedge, PEP Executive Director
En-cour-age-ment, definition: the action of giving someone support, confidence, or hope
Superfoods are a big trend these days–those elite foods that seem to do everything: provide antioxidants, promote healthier skin, lower blood pressure, improve brain function, etc. Remarkably, there’s a “superfood” in the parenting world too, and it’s called “encouragement.” It’s the kale-blueberry-salmon-chia seed of parenting techniques rolled into one!
Encouragement builds confidence. Encouragement promotes self-motivation. Encouragement can diminish and even end whining and power struggles. Yet its full impact is not always realized because as parents, we don’t always practice encouragement correctly–it’s not our native language. For me, and I suspect for other parents, it’s really hard not to share our opinions, make judgments, critique and issue proclamations. And yet these actions–however well-intended–stifle our kids and dampen their internal motivation.
I remember in one of my first PEP classes, we were talking about how to respond when helping a child learn a new task. I came to the class thinking it was a good idea to point out when a child was doing something incorrectly–‘it’s how he would improve,’ I reasoned. Wrong. Turns out that the way children build their competency and confidence is when we point out what they are doing that is right. I still recall, I sat there in shock. But as I listened more and thought about it, it seemed so obvious. How had I not realized this before?
Pointing out what a child is doing that is right is just one of many techniques in PEP’s encouragement toolkit. There are so many more. One of my favorites is to get curious and ask questions. Say your child is coloring and chooses purple to color a tree trunk–rather than suggesting that she use brown or green, consider asking in a ‘wondering’ kind of way, ‘how did you ever think to do that?’ Or, your child says they like a particular movie, rather than telling him why you like or don’t like it, ask, “What parts did you like best?”
Encouragement has its own language, and the more you learn, the more you’ll see how powerful it is. Both you and your child will benefit when you start making this “parenting superfood” part of your daily diet.
All PEP core classes teach encouragement, and a new PEP online class soon to be launched focuses exclusively on this strength-based approach. Stay tuned!