How to be an encouraging parent

Discipline, structure, punishment … none of these changes behavior as fast as the use of encouragement. Some people would say that encouragement is nothing more than love, yet it is really quite different. It is a personal investment from the parent toward the child. Rather than a message about what the child ought to do, it is a message saying what the parent likes about the child. The goal of encouragement is not to help your child be the best; it is to help her try to reach a higher level.


In order to become an encourager you need to remember several things about encouragement. The following guidelines may help you to become an encourager for your child of any age.


1. Notice her effort regardless of the level of perfection she displays.


2. Recognize and focus on her assets and strengths.


3. Provide opportunities for her to make legitimate contributions by asking for her help and providing regular responsibilities.


4. Suggest small steps to accomplish tasks when she needs help.


5. Use humor. Humor often is an effective tool for encouraging self-acceptance as well as imperfection.
6. Take time for training. At neutral times (not during the heat of battle) provide instruction, advice and guidance in new tasks. These can include learning to run the washing machine or setting the table.
7. Spend time with her.
8. Listen to her and make it obvious that you are listening.
9. Mind your own business. Allow her to solve her own problems unless she seeks your help.
10. Don’t emphasize liabilities. It is quite easy to be critical but it is far more challenging to be constructive and helpful.
11. Provide opportunities for success. Offer opportunities for responsibilities in areas where she has a chance to succeed.

Vocalize the positives

How you respond to her makes a huge difference. Some examples of encouraging statements that might help you see how encouragement is used are ones like these:
• “I’m sure you can solve it.”
• “I’m not sure what we would have done without
    your help.”
• “Nice job. I am really happy for you.”
• “That must have hurt. Let me know if I can help.”
• “That’s a clever idea. I wish I had thought of it.”
• “I’ll bet that made you feel good.”
• “Thanks, that was a big help. I appreciate it.”
• “That was a nice choice. You really look nice.”
• “What a beautiful job. Thank you.”
• “You really put a lot of effort into that and it shows.”

• “I love you.”


It is not complicated to become an encouraging parent. If your attitude toward her includes belief in her ability to handle things, you will be an encouraging parent. If you believe in the dignity and worth of her apart from the deed she is doing, you will be an encouraging parent.



Cynthia Martin is the founder of the First Teacher program and director of Parenting Matters Foundation. The foundation publishes newsletters for parents, caregivers and grandparents. Reach Martin at or at 681-2250.



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