Discouragement is when someone experiences loss, adversity, or failure and as a result they lose confidence in their own strengths and abilities to cope. They lose heart.
This happens to kids a lot. Every day, a child struggles with the painful struggles of growing up. Hopefully, they’re learning about life and becoming stronger as they deal with the challenges of childhood.
But inevitably, they’ll experience discouragement. In another post, I explained how parents can be helpful, how they can help a child bounce back. Some kids have strong self-confidence and they’re able to encourage themselves and quickly recover on their own. But of course not every child is strong this way. Most kids need encouragement. I recommend that you read the whole article, but in summary, here’s what I advised:
- Listen with empathy to understand
- Affirm your child’s strengths
- Acknowledge the negatives and restore perspective
- Offer support
It’s not a difficult skill. The vital ingredients are love and the wisdom of your adult perspective. You remind your child, who is focused on their angst, that there are many positives among the negatives.
A related skill is proactive encouragement, which is offering encouragement before your child runs into adversity. I call this the “encouragement inoculation.” Essentially, you affirm your child’s strengths in advance of their running up against the inevitable disappointments. With enough doses of proactive encouragement, they can become resilient enough to bounce back from adversity without your help.
“I know you get a lot of pressure from your friends to do stuff you probably shouldn’t do. But you’re a strong kid. You know right from wrong. You know how to stand up and be your own person.”
“You’re taking algebra this year. I’ll bet it’s confusing at times. You have a good mind and are smart enough to ask questions when you don’t understand.”
“Your coach pushes you pretty hard. I see you as a person who can take it and use it as motivation to do the hard things.”
Don’t wait until your kid loses heart and feels beaten down. You don’t need to overdo it, but a regular shot in the arm along the way can do wonders.
Chapter 8 in my book, Connect with Your Kid: Mastering the Top 10 Parent-Child Communication Skills, is all about encouragement.
This book, along with Parents Coaching Parents, will help you make change happen.