Encouraging Your Child: The Powerful Benefits

We can all agree: that life is hard! The endless to-do lists, appointments, errands, and meetings can feel overwhelming.

While we tend to attribute challenges and difficulties to adulthood, this doesn’t mean children don’t experience struggles and challenges. Even in the most idyllic childhood, every child will experience fears, frustrations, and disappointments; these are inescapable. 

What helps calm the storm when life gets hard? While a raise, an indulgent dessert, or a quiet house might give temporary relief, one thing that makes a world of difference to a discouraged soul is encouragement.

Why Encouragement Means So Much

We all have that friend or family member who listens and lifts us up when we’re down. They have an innate ability to speak encouragement to our soul and say just what we need to hear. 

Children are people, too! They need to hear encouragement just like adults. Our challenges may look different, but we all need encouragement.

Only affirmation, encouragement, or positive feedback motivates you to do things well–and to do even better than you were! The same goes for children. Children are deeply motivated to want affirmation from others, and encouraging desirable behavior, skills, and attitudes is the best way to have these habits stick around. 

Encouragement is also an excellent way to build perseverance in our children. When a task feels challenging or impossible to accomplish, encouragement helps it feel possible again. This leads to a greater chance for success, boosted self-esteem, and a sense of accomplishment.  

Where Do Children Get Encouragement?

While parents and teachers should help children develop the skill of encouragement, it’s rare to find mature encouragement in a peer age group. This means children look up to adults for life-giving words.

We can all agree that what our parents say to us sticks with us for a lifetime, both the good and the bad. Parents should choose their words carefully and make them count. Encouraging words are incredibly powerful! 

How Does Encouragement Help Children?

Think of the peace, pleasure, and motivation after an encouraging talk with a friend, therapist, or loved one, and how your challenges seem lighter. Your children experience these positive changes, too!

The National Association for the Education of Young Children lists the areas in which a child’s demeanor changes when they have encouragement. They:

  •  Are usually in a positive mood
  •  Listen and follow directions
  •  Have close relationships with caregivers and peers
  •  Care about friends and show interest in others
  •  Recognize, label, and manage their own emotions
  •  Understand others’ emotions and show empathy
  •  Express wishes and preferences clearly
  •  Gain access to ongoing play and group activities
  •  Are able to play, negotiate, and compromise with others

Encouragement is one of the biggest blessings we can give our children. Not only does it build a positive relationship with them, but they’re able to experience life with greater joy and more gumption. 

Tips on Giving Encouragement

Ready to give your child more encouragement? Here are some tips:

Encourage, But Don’t Flatter

There’s a huge difference between encouragement (Merriam-Webster: “to inspire with courage, spirit, or hope”) and flattery (Merriam-Webster: “to praise excessively”). Encouragement is beneficial, but flattery will simply give your child a big head. 

Choose to inspire your child’s spirit with courage and hope instead of praising them excessively. A strong character and spirit will uphold a child when challenges come, but flattery gives a child little hope. 

Make Your Words Count

We’ve all heard the saying that too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. If you encourage everything good your child does, encouragement can begin to lose its meaning. While you want to encourage your child often, you also want to make your encouragement count.

Take some time to reflect on specific ways your child could benefit from encouragement. Perhaps they struggle with math, temper tantrums, picky eating, or countless other areas. Then pay particular attention to these areas and be quick to encourage, even at the slightest improvements.  

Encourage Good Character

It’s easy to focus on separate actions or choices your child makes: share your toy, study hard, don’t be mean. But good choices and behavior often flow from quality character. Encouraging your child in their character development will yield lifelong benefits.  

For instance, “You were so kind to see your friend was sad and share your toy” is better than “Good job sharing.” Or, “I’m so proud of your diligence studying this week” is better than “Good job getting an ‘A’.” The first statements encourage the child to develop quality character, which will benefit them their whole life, not just for sharing toys or getting good grades. 

Make Personal Connections

Another way to encourage a child’s character is by revealing how their actions have affected you or someone else. For instance, extend your encouragement from “Thank you for picking up your toys” to “Thank you for picking up your toys; you’ve made our house feel tidy again,” or “You’ve helped me so much by picking up your toys.” 

Helping children make connections between their actions and the effect of those actions will help them make better decisions in the future. They will be more likely to be cheerful, helpful, and considerate.

At Bright Start Louisville, we use the power of encouragement every day! We strive to help children grow to their fullest potential.