PEP Blog


4 Tips from the Encouragement Language Lab

By Colleen Reed, PEP Program Director

The PEP office often feels like a language lab. Amid sounds of a colleague practicing her Japanese for an upcoming trip to Kyoto, we see parents donning their “headsets” and getting to work learning the language of encouragement.

Just as we start by learning short, everyday phrases in a new foreign language, equipping parents with encouragement phrases to practice puts the words in their mouth and, eventually, commits those words to muscle memory. It’s the equivalent to dreaming in a foreign language or forgetting a vocabulary word in your native tongue – two moments I celebrated as milestones during my French language studies.

Over the past several months, PEP leaders and staff have had the privilege of working with groups of parents in PEP’s first online master class, Encouragement: Building Your Child’s Confidence from the Inside Out. The discussion boards brim with tales of parents’ efforts to make those new phrases their own.

Notice effort rather than outcome.

Yesterday at soccer practice, my daughter was recognized for following instructions well. Instead of saying “great job – I am proud of you!” I said “I noticed that you did your dribble drills really well and Coach said yours was really good. How did it feel?” She paused and then said “it felt really good!” and was very happy.

Accentuate the positive.

I was about to say something negative this morning like “if you only went to bed earlier last night, you would not be as tired” but I held my tongue. Instead I appreciated that she got herself dressed this morning. With more focus on the positive in the last 2 weeks, I have noticed her wanting to take care of herself independently. Thank you!

Express appreciation.

This morning I gave my daughter a “job” that I knew she would enjoy doing: scooping dog food from the big container into the smaller one. I set her up and then left to get other things done. She loved it! I was appreciative of her efforts to help get a project done in the morning before leaving on time. Normally I would have used the dog food job as a ‘bribe’ for getting her jobs done first. But starting her off on the right foot…contributing to the family & succeeding at something on her own, meant that she was ready to be more helpful and independent the rest of the morning. YAY!

Be specific.

My son, a swimmer, stated that he hates “false praise,” when grown-ups say things like “Good swim” after a race, which might have been a terrible swim for him. By contrast, he knew his coach would be honest and specific. He trusted her to tell him what he did well and where he needed to improve. The “good job” statement grown-ups provided (for him, annoying) white noise. Kids know the difference!

The concept of encouragement is woven throughout all of PEP’s programs; it’s a fundamental tenet of our parenting philosophy. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement as the summer winds down, your patience frays, and you begin to wrap your mind around back-to-school?

Join us for our award-winning 4-week online class, Encouragement: Building Your Child’s Confidence from the Inside Out. Learn new concepts, strategies and get your questions answered by PEP certified parent educators. $199.


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Parent Encouragement Program
10100 Connecticut Ave.
Kensington, MD 20895

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