The Art of Encouragement

Think of a time when the encouragement of another made a big difference for you. How was encouragement shown?

I remember my 3rd grade teacher. She had both a big heart, and good classroom management. Mostly she believed in each of us. She showed it in the way she looked at us and thought of us. She has stuck with me all these years.

We all have struggled at times with new learning curves. We can forget that we all have differences in learning styles, gifts, and experience.

For some, it could be languages, technology, math, or sports. I have even struggled with learning new things that inspire me. I can doubt, want to give up, and procrastinate. It’s normal.

How do we encourage others and ourselves?

  • Small Steps. When learning curves are steep, there are simply more small steps, and it takes small step after small step.
  • Fun. Listen and laugh, don’t try “fixing” or doing for another. When I am faced with doubt, I take out colored pencils and markers to draw around the tiny steps accomplished. Celebrate small steps with creative breaks.
  • Acknowledgement. Effective encouragement may take the form of specific acknowledgment of the smallest of steps. 
  • Failure. Small steps usually don’t go in a straight line. I recently heard the phrase “fail forward”, meaning, learn from failure, a part of life. We learn, forgive ourselves, and continue on, even stronger.
  •  Vulnerability. On the inside, a young, vulnerable part of ourselves, who had a difficult experience in a particular area of life, may need attention. A former negative experience might have told us that we couldn’t do something or failure wasn’t ok. Children too have even younger, more vulnerable parts of themselves that can get stuck.
  • Resources. Find a buddy with whom to collaborate. When needed, gather a team. This is a really important support in parenting. Checkout Listening Partnerships at http://shop.handinhandparenting.org/products/building-a-listening-partnershiphas, a buddy program that connects parents.
  • Belief. Underneath it all is belief. Believe in inner strength and the capability to figure it out with the right support. See the deeper and wider picture. Belief comes from contacting the vulnerable part inside. Belief is one hand reaching out to the other knowing it is possible.

At times, we all, as parents, can reach the wall where we are scraping the dirt to find “belief”. Those are the times when we need to go inside to find what killed belief in ourselves. Then reach a hand to the inner more vulnerable part that gave up. Only then are we ready to do it for our children.

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