Classic Parenting: Encouragement, Praise, Acceptance, and Responsibility

Encouragement comes when you focus on your child's assets and strengths in order to build his/her self-confidence. It comes from seeing the positive. Even failures can be outstanding learning experiences. Encouragement sounds like this, "I like the way that you did that," or "I know that you can do it," or, "It looks like you worked very hard at that."

Encouragement is NOT giving compliments for work poorly done, but under those circumstances it IS inspiring your child to work harder and do better. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up, according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." -St. Paul (Eph. 4:29)

Ultimately self-confidence comes from having accomplished things worth being proud of. Reserve praise for things well done. Where encouragement is given for effort, praise is given for accomplishment. Just say, "That's a good start, keep at it," when the work is not yet worthy of praise.

Accept your child for who he or she is. If you expected that your baby would grow into an Olympic athlete with an IQ of 148, and instead he or she is "average" then you might be very disappointed as a parent (most children are "average," which is why they call it "average."). Disappointment is often turned into anger, or at least frustration. If your child cannot live up to your expectations and dreams for him or her (and why should they?) then please be careful of your emotions. If you are not careful, your own dreams and expectations for your child will become a wedge between you and your child. Please don't make your love, encouragement, or acceptance, dependent on their performance or behavior.

Teach Responsibility to your children. Let them try things and let them fail once in a while. Don't keep bailing them out. Victory only tastes sweet if we taste the bitterness of failure once in a while. Trust me, the dog's not going to starve if he misses a meal or two. The newspaper won't come to run a story on your family if your child fails to make his bed once in a while. Just use these occasions to remind your child that if his or her dog is going to ever eat again, he needs to get out there and feed it (assuming that's your child's job), and that he or she is an important member of your home and that he needs to be responsible with doing his chores.

Make the consequences for not being responsible fit the crime. And of course be sure to reward/praise your child when he/she does act responsibly. Behavior that is rewarded tends to reoccur, and behavior that is ignored tends to go away -- so always reward and praise responsible behaviors.

Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.

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