How To Encourage
I was flipping through the book Breaking the Good Mom Myth — written by my MA colleagueAlyson Schafer — and discovered that she had a list remarkably similar to the Methods of Encouragement list I found in the “great resources” section of my filing cabinet. She credits her grandmother, Edith Dewey, as the original author. Edith was one of the early Adlerians in Ontario, and helped to promote Adler’s work and parenting philosophy professionally and within her own family. These Methods of Encouragement stand the test of time, and are a great go-to list for today’s parents.
Methods of Encouragement
- Work for improvement, not perfection.
- Commend effort…One’s effort is more significant than one’s results.
- Separate the deed from the doer. One may reject the child’s actions without rejecting the child.
- Build on strengths, not weaknesses. A misbehaving child has the power to defeat the adult. Give the child credit for this.
- Show your faith in the child. This must be sincere, so one must first learn to trust the child.
- Mistakes should not be viewed as failures. We need to take away the stigma of failure. Failure usually indicates a lack of skill. One’s worth is not dependent on success.
- Failure and defeat will only stimulate special effort when there remains the hope of the eventual success. They do not stimulate a deeply discouraged child who has lost all hope of succeeding.
- Stimulate and lead the child, but do not try to push him ahead. Let him go at his own pace.
- Remember that genuine happiness comes from self-sufficiency. Children need to learn to take care of themselves.
- Stimulating competition usually does not encourage children. Those who see hope of winning may put forth extra effort, but the stress is on winning rather than on co-operation and contribution. The less competitive one is, the better one is able to withstand competition.
- Praise is not the same as encouragement. Praise may have an encouraging effect on some children, but it often discourages and can cause anxiety and fear. Some come to depend on praise and will only perform for recognition in ever-increasing amounts. Success accompanied by special praise for the results may make the child fear, “I can never do it again!”
- Success is a by-product. Preoccupation with the obligation to succeed is intimidating and the resulting fear and anxiety often contribute to failure. If one functions with the emphasis on the contribution that he may make, or how he may cooperate with others, success usually results.
- Don’t give responsibility and significance only to those who were already responsible. Giving opportunities to be responsible to a child who is discouraged may make it worthwhile for him to cooperate.
- Remember that discouragement is contagious. The discouraged child tends to discourage his teacher or parent.