10 Ways to Encourage Your Child

A few weeks ago, my seven-year-old son came home from school with a note in his backpack. The note was addressed to me and my husband, congratulating B and informing us that he had been selected to participate in the lower school spelling bee. I had tons of questions, but was firstly filled with a lot of joy, and hugged on my son for a long time, expressing how very proud his dad and I were of him. We were instructed to attend an informational meeting after school the following week with our student, so that's exactly what we did.

Spelling Bee practice after school.

The 3rd-grade teacher was at the meeting to help explain the rules of the bee to parents and the participants. B was one of just two students chosen to participate from the 1st grade. The bee would include 10 students total from 1st through 4th grade, and the words would all be mixed during the spelling bee, which meant that we'd have to study words geared toward 1st - 5th grade.

B loves to read and is a great speller, so he was very excited to participate in the bee and to represent his class. As the weeks went by, we studied a lot at home and even went to special practice sessions after school with the other participants. As the day of the bee drew near, B expressed how nervous he was to have to stand in front of the entire lower school and spell hard words at a microphone, all alone. We had lots of tears, a lot of 'I can't do it' moments, and a lot of frustration to boot.

1st Grade Spelling Bee Participants

My son is a lot like I am, and can become very nervous and anxious, given the situation. I knew that B had it in him to participate. He was afraid of losing and disappointing his parents and his classmates. We worked it out through lots of talks, love, hugs, and encouragement, and you know what? He had a great time at the spelling bee. He made it through 6-7 rounds, spelled tricky words, and made his school incredibly proud! Now he can't wait for next year's bee!

It's not easy on us as parents when we see our kids struggling. Maybe your child struggles with a particular subject in school, or with behavior. Our biggest struggle is listening at home, as opposed to listening to other authority figures. Sometimes there are little frustrations over playing a game, building a LEGO, or trying to accomplish a task. My son is just seven, and I know that there are a lot of frustrations that will come our way in the years ahead. The key for us is encouragement... sometimes that comes by way of spoken words or actions. The greatest tool for parents is also the simplest and at times, the most complicated of all... love.

Have Some Fun

Sure, you probably have work to do & so do your kiddos, but life can't be all about work 100% of the time. I'm guilty of working from the time I wake up to the time I go to bed each night. Build in some time for fun with your family. Play with your kids- get outside and run with them, get on the floor and play cars or have tea parties, etc. It's easier to tackle and work through frustrating family situations when you have solid and consistent moments of relaxed family fun and enjoyment.

Celebrate Accomplishments, Even the Small Victories

Not every celebration in the life of your child has to be a major one. It's fun to celebrate milestones for little ones, such as using the potty for the first time, or tying their shoes! For older kids, make celebrations for circumstances such as no demerits or missed days at school. Did they make a sports team? Did they have a play or recital that they participated in? Celebrate it!

Give Them Examples

Give your kids people to look up to. Show them what role models look like, and teach them about important people in history who had to work hard or overcome great odds to succeed. This will plant the idea that hard work and perseverance can and does pay off.

Don't Expect Change Overnight- or Maybe Even at All

Some kids do struggle with certain things all of their lives, and that's okay. As parents, we have to learn that not every challenge can be easily overcome or changed. Love, love, love your child! Love on them in those moments of frustration and simply be there with them as they walk through those tough moments in life.

Let Them Have Their Childhood

This one is tough- especially for me and my husband. Our son is smart, and we know he is, therefore, we sometimes expect him to behave more maturely than he can or knows how. We have to recognize the difference between childish and childlike behavior and let him still be a kid.

Point Out and Celebrate Their Strengths

We do this often with our kids, and with each other as spouses. An encouraging word goes a long way! We love to tell our kids what a good job they've done- whether they've helped with a chore at home, or have accomplished something awesome at school. B loves to sing, so we often tell him how nice he sounds when he does so. We hope this will encourage him to want to pursue music in some way or another when he's ready to make that choice for himself.

Place Value on Knowledge and Experiences

My son will start Tera Nova testing in school this year. You know- those end of the year tests that gauge knowledge and overall performance/comprehension. Some kids don't test well- they become anxious and just freeze up when they're timed to answer questions without being able to think much on their own. We try to encourage open conversation about what's being talked about in school, or what types of activities have been experienced and enjoyed. Most days, my son is eager to tell me about what he learned in science or history, and we continue the conversation and supplement what he's learned in the classroom with additional reading or activities at home. Our hope is that we'll instill a love of lifelong learning in both of our kids simply by asking about their day.

Don't Feel the Need to Judge

My husband and I are musicians, so we're overly critical of our own performances and have a tendency to pick them apart on a continual basis. We're always interested in the ways we can improve. Kids, though, are just developing likes and dislikes, or coming into the realization of special talents or Spiritual gifts, so it's oh, so important to encourage all the way! It's okay to talk about ways to work to improve something or work toward goals, but never ever 'judge' your child's performance. It can be detrimental to their ego and spirit.

Don't Discount Their Feelings

Here's an important one. When we signed B up for a summer soccer camp last year, we were sure he'd love it and really thrive on the field. As it turned out, he hated it and was too afraid to tell us. He came home exhausted, dehydrated, and even sick to his stomach one day after camp because he just disliked the activity and environment so much. He didn't want to disappoint us, so he told us he was having fun, even though he really wasn't. That was the end of soccer camp for him, and it opened up an important conversation for us about communicating feelings.

Don't Expect Perfection

So, I'm a perfectionist, and this one is incredibly hard for me. My son received a 99 instead of 100 in a particular subject on his latest progress report, and that one point difference made my eye twitch when I saw it on the report. I had to tell myself, 'Don't be that parent!' We constantly tell our son that as long as he does his best, we'll always be proud of him. The perfection thing is my own issue, which I have to work to let go of so that I am not pushing those unrealistic expectations off on my own kids.

Navigating the waters of parenthood is tough. Every day there seems to be a new issue we're facing, and if I'm honest, sometimes I'm left just scratching my head, not knowing where the answers are going to come from. We deal with bad attitudes, hurt feelings, fear, and anxiety, and even worry about personal safety. Encouragement has to start in the home- and at a very young age. When your babies are babies, that's when you start cheering them on... they finished their bottle, they got their latch right, they pulled up their own pants, they used their fork or spoon, they tied their shoes, they participated in the science fair, they made you a grilled cheese sandwich... every accomplishment matters. 

Every child deserves love, attention, and encouragement every step of the way through life. Be that parent. Step up to the plate and be present. Be present at home, be present at school, be present in their extracurricular activities, and if prayer is a part of your life, pray over your child every single day, never taking for granted the incredible gift you've been given.

Be blessed as you continue on your journey...

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