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Encouraging a Child

Kids are smart.  They know when someone isn’t telling them the truth.

It’s hard on them when people do this…especially when parents do this.

This post is about encouraging a child, something parents both like and strive to do.  The problem occurs when well-meaning parents tell their child that they are fabulous, they are wonderful, they are good…and then don’t anchor the praise onto something measurable.  It’s worse when a parent tells a child they are good at something when both the parent and the child know that isn’t true.  In fact, there’s a growing body of research that says that kids can become immune to praise and that too much of it can convince kids of the opposite truth or cause the opposite action.  Check out an article titled, “The Effects of Praise” at parentingscience.com.  Psychology Today also has relevant articles you might find helpful.

So, my post on encouragement doesn’t sound very encouraging, does it?

With just a little adjustment, however, we can make encouraging words much more impactful, much more able to be absorbed by the child and much more….well…encouraging!

I am a big proponent of truth-telling and teaching children to tell the truth, because being truthful will make their lives both easier and happier.  Adults need to model this ethic for their children.  

In the area of encouragement we can achieve the goal of truth by asking ourselves some key questions before making statements of praise.

1. Is the statement I am about to make really true?

To say, “You are a superstar at swimming” to a child who is barely keeping his head above the waterline is not truthful.  However, “Way to go!  You made it all the way to the end of the pool!” works.  It is fact, and it is encouraging.

2. Does my statement help my child to continue striving for a goal?

When a child is charged with cleaning her room and you notice that all her dirty clothes are stuffed under the bed, you can stay encouraging by saying, “You did a great job making your bed and clearing the floor.  Way to go!”  Then you can set the expectation that the dirty clothes go in the hamper and help her do that before gold stars are given.  This way she can be proud of what she did, and will know what she can do next time to both please you and finish the job well.

At it’s most useful, encouragement is specific, incremental (“better” is more truthful than the word “best”) and based on effort.  Children need our encouragement.  That is one of the ways storieChild helps you help your child, by giving you a format for the loving communication all parent want to give their children.  If you offer it to them in a truthful and clear way, you’ll find them more cooperative and proud of their accomplishments.  Then you can be proud too.

Slower Steps

Slower Steps

“Is she walking?” 

I hear this question, or some variation of it, all the time. Strangers ask it. Acquaintances weave it into each greeting. Family members express their concern. You see, my daughter is 19 months...and not walking, nor does she really seem that into the idea at all. I dont tell those inquiring that last part; instead I rattle off her skills, accomplishments, and make an array of excuses including:

Shes a preemie.

Her cat-sister is easier to play with at scooting-level.

She isn't walking, but she has over three books memorized and says more words than the average kids in her real and adjusted ages.

She can point out body parts on humans and animals!

Shes more verbal, like me.

Im sure Im smiling when I say these things. My sore cheeks prove that. Inside, though, Im worried. Did I do something wrong? Why didnt I go part-time earlier? It was clear immediately after my maternity leave was over that she wasnt going to accept bottles, and that was over 8 hours without nourishment on workdays. People assured me she made up for it nursing endlessly when I came home, but I don't think thats true. Some family members blame my attachment parenting, and I worry that theyre right. But then I think about my fellow AP mommiestheir babies walked on time. That makes me swirl down to the first postnatal worry: her prematurity. Will it be a lifelong hinderance?

Motherhood is a phantasmagoria of worry and comparisons to all other babies.

But It doesn't have to be. We dont need to excuse our children for being themselves. Accomplishments should be part of natural boasting and not be forced into a defense strategy.

Heres the true reason why my daughter isnt walking yet: shes an individual. She likes cats, owl books, the sound blocks make when they hit a wood floor. Oh, and shell walk when shes ready.

Toddlers Love Reading Too!

Toddlers Love Reading Too!

It’s almost the end of a year.  Well, school year that is. In just 7 days, I will wrap up a school-year long journey with my sweet third graders.  They’ve grown.  In many, many ways.  They’ve grown taller.  They’ve grown smarter and wiser and they’ve grown in their reading--many of them by leaps and bounds.  It is so satisfying to watch and hear their growth in reading.  Makes my heart happy.  I venture to say that much of their growth has come from reading and reading and reading...a lot. 

And I remember during the year that I told many parents at parent teacher conferences:  “Don’t stop reading with your child.”   I told them that they are the best model for building expression, rate, and fluency.  Wait.  What?  These kids are 8 years old – some of them 9 years old.  They don’t need someone reading to them.  Oh – yes, they do.  Yes, they do.

Reading fluency begins at a very early age.  My husband and I read to our girls every night.  I can even remember reading Goodnight Moon and reaching the part in the story where the bunny is saying goodnight to everything in the room.  He reaches the part where he says, “And the quiet, old lady was whispering – hush.”  We had read that story so many times that our girls would always finish that line by saying, “hush.”  It was so cute! It was profound! They were only toddlers on our lap and yet fully aware of when that line was coming.  Every time they would finish it.  They were reading!

I found a great site that talks about the benefits of reading to your toddler.  I love what the writer has to say, because every single point is spot on.  I can tell you from a teacher’s perspective that the kids who have been read to and who read are ahead of the curve in spelling, language, and comprehension.  Their mental schema – the files in their brain – is more vast simply because they have been exposed to more things.  More pictures – more words – more language -  more scenarios – just more and it builds their little computer files.  Reading has a profound way of doing just that.  Expanding the base of knowledge.  And believe me – that’s a good, good thing.

Enjoy reading the site about 7 Benefits of Reading to Your Toddler


Until next time, some food for thought:

"The fluent reader sounds good, is easy to listen to, and reads with enough expression to help the listener understand the joy the material."


--Charles Clark, "Building Fluency: Do it Right and Do it well!" (1999)