One of my favorite parenting tools, and one of the pillars of parenting with Positive Discipline, is encouragement.
“Treat a man (or child) as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man (or child) as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”
– Steven R Covey
Encouragement: Holding the Container
To me, encouragement is holding space for others to discovery, explore and show up as their best versions of themselves. “Holding space” is the way that we show up in the relationship, how we sit, how we listen, how we respond. We are always “holding space” – just some of the time we are more intentional about it than others…
I love what one of my class participants said, “It’s like our job is to hold this big container that our kids are bouncing around in.”
Yes, “holding the container” in a way that allows our kids to bounce around, make mistakes, learn from them, and discover how capable they are in the process, that is encouragement.
Encouragement is Different from Praise
There are times when encouragement gets confused with praise, so I would love to make the distinction between the two.
Praise is often about the giver. It can be empty or vague. Praise is product oriented and creates a fixed mindset. While praise can give a child a short term sense of being noticed, it does little to grow their internal sense of self.
Encouragement, on the other hand, is all about the receiver. It is rich with detail and honesty. Encouragement is about process and effort and can facilitate the development of a growth mindset. Encouragement offers an opportunity for a child to recognize their strengths, and allows them to grow an internal gague for how they are doing…
“We know what we are but know not what we may be.” – Shakespeare
As parents, we have continuous opportunities for influencing our children’s beliefs and decision-making. We influence through our presence, our tone, our body and facial expressions, and our language. This is really what the “container” or the “space” comes down to.
Being present is encouraging.
Taking time to just be with our kids – no agenda, no distractions – just being with them. With our young kids, this may take place on the floor, being spontaneous about play and letting them take the lead. With our older kids – adolescents and teens – it may just be showing up in their room and plopping down on their bed. Presence sends a message to our kids – you matter so much to me that I am here just to be here, just to be near you.
Tone, body, and facial expression tells so much more of our truth than the words that come out of our mouth. Have you ever had your child ask, “Mom, are you mad?” They are watching, and they are feeling our energy. Soften your face, smile more, relax your shoulders and open up your chest – not only will you feel better, it will ripple into how those around you feel as well.
And finally – LANGUAGE!
“Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.”
Yes, our words matter. Anyone who has heard a child say, “but you said…” knows how important the words we speak are to the kids who hear them. So lets practice using words in a way that is forwarding and helpful.
I learned how to teach parents about encouraging language during my Positive Discipline Facilitator trainer. Here are the types of effective encouraging language that we teach parents:
This is simple noticing your child, noticing what they have done, or not done, noticing their effort, or lack of effort. The message behind these words is I see you.
Can sound like:
- You made your bed.
- You put your shoes on all by yourself.
- You stayed up late to get that homework done.
- You didn’t make your bed.
- You needed help to get your shoes on.
- You don’t have a set time for homework.
In both sets of examples, the parent sees the child, and there is no judgment! It is simply an opportunity to notice.
This is showing appreciation or gratitude for what your child has done. The message here is your contribution is valued.
Can sound like:
- Thank you for putting your dishes in the dishwasher, it made cleaning up the kitchen so much easier.
- I appreciate you making your bed, it shows that you respect your space.
- Thank you for playing with your little brother, you are a great example of kindness.
Can you feel how heartfelt these comments are?
This is the big daddy of encouraging language. This is our chance to broaden our children’s perspective of themselves. This is where we have the opportunity to help them recognize the skills and qualities that we see them displaying.
Can sound like:
- It took a lot of dedication and work ethic to stay up so late to get your project done.
- You found your courage when you went for it at the skate park. I saw how nervous you were to push off. (true story)
- You were really upset by what your sister said, and you found a way to calm down, that takes a lot of self control.
This type of encouragement requires us to use evidence when we speak it to our kids. It leaves them recognizing parts of themselves that they may have not realized existed.
“Never above you. Never below you. Always beside you.” – Walter Winchell
Walk beside your kids. Support them, love them, encourage them to be their best, even when they are struggling. They need you there, holding space, and accepting all of them… Recognizing that this is all part of the process of growing into the adults.
And if you want more support in growing your encouragement practice, I have a gift for you…
It’s called #JoyfulCourage10 – a free 10 day program that will guide and support you on your journey of holding space and show up as your best for your kids.
“Taking the joyful courage 10 was a truly enlightening experience. Reflecting on the meditations throughout my day helped me to stay in (or return to) a place of calm. It really kept me in touch with the parent I want to be. It was nice to have a ‘goal for my heart’ to focus on …”
– Maria A, mama of one
#JoyfulCourage10 is 10 days of exploring and practicing the parent you want to be through daily support and inspiration. You will receive text messages to encourage and inspire you around the daily theme, as well as deeper conversations and live support in the Joyful Courage Facebook group. Best of all? YOU decide your level of engagement.
The program starts August 24th – check it out and join us!!
Peace, love and parenting, Casey
Latest posts by Casey O'Roarty, M.Ed. ( see all)
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