Use Encouragement Instead of Criticism to Help Children Improve

Use Encouragement Instead of Criticism to Help Children Improve

Criticism is punitive

Our children judge themselves on the opinions we have of them. When we use harsh words, demeaning adjectives or a sarcastic tone of voice, we literally strip a child’s core of self-confidence and make them less likely to try to please us.

Studies have shown that verbal abuse is more likely than physical abuse to damage children’s self esteem.

Not only does it damage their soul, it is counter productive to cooperation and lasting change.

Encouragement is uplifting

Encouragement is the process of focusing on your children’s assets and strengths in order to build their self-confidence and feelings of worth.

Parents need to convey though words and gestures that we appreciate their efforts and improvement, not just their accomplishments. We need to make sure they understand that our love and acceptance is not dependent on their behavior or winning the prize in soccer.

Positive correction that changes behavior

A very effective way of communicating is create a verbal Encouragement Sandwich:

1 Start off with a slice of the bread of life. For example, “I really admire the way you are learning to take better care of your things.”

2. Next, add a little mayo spread lightly, “I felt happy when I saw you hang up your new jacket last night.”

3. Then, the slice of sharp cheese, “However, I noticed you left your bike outside in the rain again.”

4. On top of the cheese, a little spicy mustard to catch their attention, “Please put it away every night or we will have to lock it up for a week each time it is left out.”.

5. Finally, another slice of bread, “All in all, you are a responsible kid and I have confidence you will choose to take better care of your bike.”

Do they get the message of the mistake of leaving the bike out? Yes, but it is not by attacking them personally and this method of correction gives them an incentive to do better.

Nurturing better behavior

Some parents and care givers, particularly those who did not receive much love or encouragement in their childhoods, often fail to see the importance of nurturing the inner core of a child. The sad part of this is that encouragement and kind feedback will bring about positive change, whereas criticism brings about rebellion, anger and loss of self worth.

Encouragement Works

Zig Ziglar, an internationally known motivational speaker, has said “When we have positive input, we have positive output, and when we have negative input, we have negative output.”

As a parent educator, mother and grandmother, may I suggest that you need to be very careful of the words you choose to motivate your children?

It helps if you break up the word to read “en” courage, which means giving a gift of courage: the courage to keep trying, to keep up the good work, to focus on next time and not give up. This courage helps the child realize that they can make mistakes and they will still be loved and valued. Where as “dis” courage or criticism takes away the courage to try new things or work harder for fear of getting in trouble and displeasing the adults.

What choices could you make next time?

Help the child and yourself recognize that mistakes are never final and frequently we get a “do-over” or a second chance. The past is done; we can learn from it and then focus on the future

For a listing of encouraging words and phrases, please check out the website

Thank you for doing a great job

Those of you working with children on a daily basis do the most important work in the world. I applaud your efforts and “en” courage you to choose your words carefully when you want the children you care for to improve their behavior. Words have the power to build up or destroy. As caring adults the goal is to strengthen the character of the child as well as get the jackets, bikes, toys, etc. picked up on a consistent basis.

© 2005 Judy H. Wright, Parent Educator

This article was written by Judy Wright, parent educator and author. Feel free to use it in your newsletter or publication, but please give full credit to the author and mention the contact information of,             406-549-9813      .

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