By Cheri Fuller
Having taught, worked and prayed with children and teenagers for over thirty years, plus raising our own three children who are now parents themselves and grandparenting six wonderful grandkids who light up my life, I have a great respect for the amazing learning and spiritual potential of young people. In addition, I greatly enjoy kids creativity and humor, and the way they see life, which is sometimes a little different than we adults see things. I'm so grateful for children's wonder and the blessings they bring to not only parents, teachers, and grandparents, but all those around them.
Sometimes in our effort to improve our children's behavior or performance at school or home, as mothers we speak more negative than positive words to them. In fact, research shows mothers say ten negative to every one positive comment to kids. There are many discouragers in the world your children will encounter, but you have been given the privilege of being encouragers, building them up instead of tearing them down.
Lana, a young woman who as a teenager was given a national award, "The Brain of England," was asked by reporters what the secret of her academic success. They thought surely her parents pushed her to achieve or gave her all the advantages. But Lana told them that what fueled her effort was the constant atmosphere of encouragement in her home. When she or her sister had an idea, their parents supported and encouraged them. They appreciated the unique way their daughters were gifted and gave them opportunities to try new things, and never put them down for failing.
That's a key for us as mothers: to be grateful for each of our children, even their quirks and what looks like "negative" characteristics (like bossiness, which is actually a sign in childhood of administrative talent, that is, a kid who could grow up and be a CEO, or argumentativeness, the sign in early life of analytical ability). And then to express that gratitude through encouraging words and actions.
Let's be their greatest encourager, not their biggest criticizer! Catch them doing something right instead of something wrong and acknowledge it. Give children a snapshot of what they're becoming and what you appreciate about them, and you'll find their attitude, motivation, and effort will improve, with phrases like:
It is such a blessing to be your mom.
You mean so much to me.
If someone lined up all the ten year olds (use your child's age) in the world and told me I could pick anyone, I'd choose you.
I believe in you!
You're so kind and caring toward your friends.
You're going to go far in life. God has a bright future and hope ahead for you (based on Jeremiah 29:11)
I appreciate all your efforts in school. You are really improving.
Now that's a creative idea! (instead of Where'd you get that crazy idea?)
You could put a note in your daughter's lunchbox that said, "I appreciate your good attitude this week and love you very much!" or "I'm proud of you and the way you persevere in sports and school work." Get a dry erase pen and leave messages on your son's mirror: "I know you can do it! Love you, Mom" on the morning of his soccer team tryouts.
A single, positive comment can make a huge difference in a child's life. Encouragement to young people is what the sun is to flowers; it's vital if they're going to grow and bloom, because an ounce of praise or appreciation can accomplish more than a ton of fault-finding.
Interestingly, research shows children move toward those who encourage them, and move away from those who discourage them.
Once when I was a guest writing teacher in a fifth grade classroom, we were having the weekly "Readers Theatre" in which students got to sit in the Author's Chair and read aloud their poems to the two classes. I had chosen "My Hand," by a student named Brandy. I wasn't sure which girl she was out of the fifty noisy, energetic fifth-graders, but I called her name and asked, "Would Brandy come up and read her poem entitled 'My Hand'? Students, listen carefully because you're going to love the imagery and word choice in this poem."
Slowly a shy girl with long, stringy blond hair walked from the back of the room where she'd been sitting alone. After she read aloud her poem, the kids erupted in applause. "Share some of your other poems," they urged. Brandy slowly began to blossom as the class poet. A few days later I realized how much my few words of encouragement had meant to a little girl when I received her words of thanks:
Dear Mrs. Fuller,
These few weeks you've been teaching creative writing have been the BEST days of my whole life!
You brought out the person, the writer inside,
that I didn't realize I had.
I'll always remember you and cherish you for what you did for me.
These are a few more poems I wrote. I hope you enjoy them.
Your enthusiastic student, Brandy
By the way, Brandy went on to be top writer on her high school newspaper and major in communications. Anne Frank, author of Diary of a Young Girl, once said, "Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don't know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is." The truth is, our appreciation and encouragement as mothers goes a long way toward helping our children fulfill their potential and be the best they can be.
(Use only with permission of author.)
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