The best gift you can give your child this holiday season

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The best gift you can give your children this holiday season is . . .


You can’t wrap it up, and they won’t be asking for it.  But they need it more than anything, and it doesn’t cost a dime.

“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”   – Rudolf Dreikurs

Think of someone in your life who was encouraging.  What did they do?  What did they say?  How did they see you?

When I ask this question in parenting classes, the responses look something like this:

  • they noticed my strengths
  • they spent time with me
  • they believed in me
  • they loved me unconditionally
  • they helped me learn new skills
  • they really listened to me

And yet, when our kids are messing up or misbehaving, it’s so easy to slip into responses that are just the opposite of encouraging:

  • “What’s wrong with you?!”
  • “I have told you a thousand times!”
  • “You are so mean to your sister!”
  • “Why are you so difficult?”

As Dr. Jane Nelsen of “Positive Discipline” says, “Where did we get the crazy idea that in order to make kids do well, we have to first make them feel bad?”  The opposite is true:  “Kids do better when they feel better.”  When kids feel connected, respected, empowered, encouraged, and safe, they do better.  We all do.

So here are three wonderful ways to give the gift of encouragement to your kids this holiday season:

Descriptive Encouragement:   “I noticed . . .

. . . you got dressed all by yourself.”

. . . you took out the garbage without being asked.”

. . . you stuck with it even though your homework was hard tonight.”

Appreciative Encouragement:  “I appreciate . . . or Thank you for . . .

. . . clearing the table.”

. . . offering to share your cookie with me.”

. . . following through with our agreement about screen time.”

Empowering Encouragement:  “I trust / I believe / I have faith . . .

. . . that you can fall asleep tonight all by yourself.”

. . . that you can figure out a solution to this problem.”

. . . that you will make a good decision.”

Unlike praise, you can give encouragement any time at all, even when your child is failing, and that is precisely when they need it most.

Try it out!  Encouragement is the gift that keeps on giving!

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The concepts and tools presented in this article are from “Teaching Parenting the Positive Discipline Way” by Jane Nelsen and Lynn Lott and co-authors.

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