Classic Parenting: Encouragement, Praise, Acceptance, and Responsibility
By Douglas Cowan, Psy.D.
Encouragement comes when you focus on your child's assets and
strengths in order to build his/her self-confidence. It comes from
seeing the positive. Even failures can be outstanding learning
experiences. Encouragement sounds like this, "I like the way
that you did that," or "I know that you can do it,"
or, "It looks like you worked very hard at that."
Encouragement is NOT giving compliments for work poorly done, but
under those circumstances it IS inspiring your child to work harder
and do better. "Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of
your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up,
according to their needs, that it may benefit those who
listen." -St. Paul (Eph. 4:29)
Ultimately self-confidence comes from having accomplished things
worth being proud of. Reserve praise for things well done. Where
encouragement is given for effort, praise is given for
accomplishment. Just say, "That's a good start, keep at
it," when the work is not yet worthy of praise.
Accept your child for who he or she is. If you expected that your
baby would grow into an Olympic athlete with an IQ of 148, and
instead he or she is "average" then you might be very
disappointed as a parent (most children are "average,"
which is why they call it "average."). Disappointment is
often turned into anger, or at least frustration. If your child
cannot live up to your expectations and dreams for him or her (and
why should they?) then please be careful of your emotions. If you
are not careful, your own dreams and expectations for your child
will become a wedge between you and your child. Please don't make
your love, encouragement, or acceptance, dependent on their
performance or behavior.
Teach Responsibility to your children. Let them try things and
let them fail once in a while. Don't keep bailing them out. Victory
only tastes sweet if we taste the bitterness of failure once in a
while. Trust me, the dog's not going to starve if he misses a meal
or two. The newspaper won't come to run a story on your family if
your child fails to make his bed once in a while. Just use these
occasions to remind your child that if his or her dog is going to
ever eat again, he needs to get out there and feed it (assuming
that's your child's job), and that he or she is an important member
of your home and that he needs to be responsible with doing his
Make the consequences for not being responsible fit the crime.
And of course be sure to reward/praise your child when he/she does
act responsibly. Behavior that is rewarded tends to reoccur, and
behavior that is ignored tends to go away -- so always reward and
praise responsible behaviors.
Douglas Cowan, Psy.D., is a family therapist who has been working with ADHD children
and their families since 1986. He is the clinical director of the ADHD Information Library's
family of seven web sites, including http://www.newideas.net, helping over 350,000 parents and
teachers learn more about ADHD each year. Dr. Cowan also serves on the Medical Advisory Board
of VAXA International of Tampa, FL., is President of the Board of Directors for KAXL 88.3 FM
in central California, and is President of NewIdeas.net Incorporated.