When commenting on children's efforts, parents must be careful not to place value judgements on what the children have done. Too often, parents make positive comments in a discouraging manner. Such comments express the parent's values and opinions, rather then help children believe in themselves.
Eliminate value-loaded words from your vocabulary (for example, good, great, excellent, etc.). Substitute encouraging phrases for discouraging phrases:
Phrases that Demonstrate Acceptance
- "I like the way you handled that"
- "I like the way you tackle a problem"
- "I'm glad you enjoy learning"
- "I'm glad you're pleased with your work"
- "Since you're not satisfied, what do you think you can do so you will be pleased with it?"
- "How do you feel about it?"
Phrases that Show Confidence
- "Knowing you, I'm sure you'll do fine"
- "You'll make it"
- "I have confidence in your judgement"
- "That's a tough one, but I'm sure you'll work it out"
- "You'll figure it out"
Phrases that Focus on Contributions, Assets, and Appreciation
- "Thanks! That helped a lot"
- "It was thoughtful of you to _________"
- "Thanks! I really appreciate __________, because it makes my job easier"
- "I need your help to__________"
- "You're very skilled at __________. Would you do that for the family?"
Phrases that Recognize Effort and Improvement
- "It looks as if you really worked hard on that"
- "It looks like you spent a lot of time thinking that through"
- "I see that you're making progress" (be specific)
- "I see that you're almost half way through your homework"
- "You may not feel that you've reached your goal, but look how far you've come!"
For Infants and/or Young Children, the Following is a List of Ways to Give Encouragement to Them
- Vocal coos
- A Word of Caution
Encouraging words can become discouraging if motivated by a parent's desire to establish "good" behaviour permanently or by an "I told you so" attitude.
Avoid giving with one hand and taking away with the other, that is avoid qualifying or moralizing comments.
"It looks as if you really worked hard on that...
- so why not do that all the time?"
- it's about time!"
- see what you can do when you try"
In Summary, Encouragement is
- Valuing and accepting children as they are (not putting conditions on acceptance)
- Pointing out the positive aspects of their behaviour
- Showing faith in children so they believe in themselves
- Recognizing effort and improvement (rather than requiring achievement)
- Showing appreciation for contributions
Reproduced with permission from Calgary Rocky View Child and Family Services