3 Ways to Become a More Encouraging Parent

The late philosopher and psychiatrist Alfred Adler believed that a misbehaving child is a discouraged child.” According to him, the most effective strategy for dealing with difficult behavior in children is to foster feelings of worthiness, significance, and competence.


I’ve seen this work wonders in a school setting: a teacher noticed that her student seemed unmotivated and kept getting into trouble for his misbehavior. She demonstrated trust in him by giving him the important role of hall monitor, and his behavior greatly improved. He appeared to view himself in a new way — as responsible — and he stopped picking fights with his peers and clowning around in class.


Here are three ways you can become a more encouraging parent at home to help your kids feel more confident and motivated to do well.



1. Be open to new ideas.

It feels very encouraging to me when people are open and curious about my ideas. I can remember times as a child when adults criticized and rejected my ideas as soon as I revealed them. This response caused me to shut down emotionally and actually withhold information instead of sharing it.


In order to foster a stronger connection with your child, try to stay open to her ideas even when they differ from your own, and especially when you’re tempted to quickly judge or squelch them. Whenever she brings up a new idea, ask questions. Say, “Tell me more about that.” Try to see the situation from her point of view. Once you understand where she’s coming from and she feels heard and validated, she’ll be more likely to listen to your ideas, too.


2. Let go of labels.

Everyone has different talents, temperaments, interests, and learning styles. While it’s important to focus on each child’s individuality, steer clear of using labels to describe them. Labels like “the shy one,” “the rambunctious one,” “careless,” or “weird” (to name just a few) can inhibit kids from evolving, trying new things, and stepping outside their comfort zones.


When referring to your kids, try using the “can be” strategy mentioned in this post. Basically, rather than speaking in absolutes (i.e. “you’re so smart” or “you’re so stubborn”), use the words “can be,” (i.e. “You can be so smart” or “You can really be stubborn sometimes”). This little change can make a huge difference in the way you speak and think about your kids, as well as in the way they perceive themselves.


3. support effort, learning, and independence.

Your child will feel super empowered when he does things independently, even when they’re not done “perfectly” as long as you’re there to cheer him on and remind him that mistakes are learning opportunities. To feel good about themselves, kids need recognition for the effort they put forth and the lessons they learn, not just for end results such as test grades, game scores, and finished projects.


So notice these things out loud. Say things like, “Your studying is really paying off” and “Let’s talk about what you tried and what you could do differently next time.” These types of comments encourage your child to keep trying and to work even harder.



Helping him become more independent may require that you teach him a new skill. You might feel inconvenienced that it takes so much time and patience to show him how to do something or let him do it on his own. Of course, it’s much faster and easier to do it yourself. Remember, though, that it’s your job to nurture him into a capable person. Leave extra time for yourselves — especially in the mornings — so neither of you feels hurried or stressed. The tremendous sense of pride and competence he’ll feel from his accomplishment will be worth your time and patience.


In the comments, share about a time you offered your child encouragement. Did you notice any short or long-term changes in his behavior? 


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