Successful Transitions: Building Hope and Resilience with Encouragement
In our last couple of blogs in our transition series, we have talked about how to respond to children with medical issues when they make mistakes or poor choices. This week, we’ll talk about how to respond to children when they make good choices and decisions particularly where their bodies are concerned.
When children do something well, most adults respond with praise: “Good job!” or “Good girl (or boy)!” While this sounds fine on the surface, praise like this can cause problems.
The challenge is that praise is really an external judgment of the child’s performance and can backfire if a child is resistant, doesn’t feel like being judged, or doesn’t particularly like the parent (or praiser) at the moment. And, of course, false praise almost always leads to disrespect. Children tend to catch on pretty quickly when adults are giving undeserved praise or trying to manipulate with praise or flattery.
So use encouragement instead! Be specific and positive with encouraging phrases when you speak to children. Encourage them to evaluate and think about their choices and the consequences of their actions. Encourage them with questions so that they are proud of themselves for making good choices. This motivates them to continue to take good care of themselves.
Don’t say, “I’m glad you listened to me and didn’t go camping with a cold.” Or “Good job staying home and taking care of yourself!”
Do say: “Do you feel good about your decision to stay home and take care of yourself?” or “How do you feel about your decision to stay home?”
Don’t say: “I am proud of you for remembering to take your medication on time.”
Do say, “Wow! You must be proud of yourself for remembering to take your medication.” Or “How do you manage to remember to take your medication on time?”
Of course, a big part of encouragement is having a positive “You can do it!” attitude ourselves, as parents. Remember the importance of example or modeling.
Are we saying that you should never use praise? Of course not! Praise can be effective with young children who are learning a new task or good habits. However, don’t overdo praise or you risk turning a child into a praise junkie!
Effectively showing encouragement will help your children better cope with their health issues, make good choices and build hope. Your children will feel good about themselves from the inside out rather than needing your approval to feel successful.
To learn more about encouragement, see the book “Parenting Children with Health Issues” on pages 88-93