Encouragement and Empathy
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Imagine if your child could say to you, “Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” (Karen Ravn) The challenging job of a parent is to create the specific environment that enables each child to reach, seek, look and dream. This job requires a lot of thought, preparation and even research. But the reward is an independent, confident adult, with a loving heart, in 20 years or so.
Proper encouragement goes a long way towards helping a child have the confidence to reach, seek, look and dream. When you practice with your child, please use encouragement. This doesn’t mean to offer frequent and unmerited praise, which is actually detrimental. Children know when they deserve accolades and easily recognize false praise. Over praising can lead to the child not trusting or valuing any praise. Aunt Rhody knows of someone like this: This mother praised everything the child did to the point that as an adult, he suspects that any praise he receives is insincere. Offer sincere praise when it is merited. Be silent otherwise. One of the most valuable ways to encourage someone is by being empathetic.
Some examples of empathetic actions are:
- An understanding hug when frustration levels mount
- Acknowledge the situation with brief comments. “That sure is hard.” (Notice the brevity! Don’t say, “That sure is hard for you.”)
- Acknowledge their feelings, don’t dismiss or scorn them. “You must be feeling upset.” Acknowledged feelings are easier to process. Whether a feeling is appropriate or not, it exists! Deal with it in a helpful manner.
- Notice and appreciate small accomplishments and efforts, even miniscule ones.
- Respect the child’s abilities by allowing time for him to figure out solutions. Resist the urge to solve problems for them, and draw forth their ideas for solutions by careful comments and questions.
© 2011 Susan A. Sommerville
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