Our words are very powerful tools, especially with impressionable children. We need to pause and think before we give corrections and feedback on what our children are doing.

Criticism Is Punitive

Our children judge themselves on the opinions we have of them. When we use harsh words, demeaning adjectives, or a sarcastic tone of voice, we literally strip a child’s core of self-confidence and make him less likely to try to please us.

Studies have shown that verbal abuse is more likely than physical abuse to damage children’s self-esteem. Not only does it damage their souls, it is counterproductive to cooperation and lasting change.

Encouragement Is Uplifting

Encouragement is the process of focusing on your children’s assets and strengths in order to build their self-confidence and feelings of worth.

Parents need to convey, though words and gestures, that we appreciate their efforts and improvement, not just their accomplishments. We need to make sure they understand that our love and acceptance is not dependent on their behavior or winning the prize in soccer.

Positive Correction That Changes Behavior

A very effective way of communicating is to create a verbal encouragement sandwich:
1. Start off with a slice of the bread of life, for example, “I really admire the way you are learning to take better care of your things.”
2. Next, add a little mayo spread lightly: “I felt happy when I saw you hang up your new jacket last night.”
3. Then, the slice of sharp cheese: “However, I noticed you left your bike outside in the rain again.”
4. On top of the cheese, a little spicy mustard to catch the child’s attention: “Please put it away every night, or we will have to lock it up for a week each time it is left out.”
5. Finally, another slice of bread: “All in all, you are a responsible kid, and I have confidence you will choose to take better care of your bike.”
Does the child get the message of the mistake of leaving the bike out? Yes, but it is not by attacking him personally, and this method of correction gives him an incentive to do better.

Nurturing Better Behavior

Some parents and caregivers, particularly those who did not receive much love or encouragement in their childhoods, often fail to see the importance of nurturing the inner core of a child. The sad part of this is that encouragement and kind feedback will bring about positive change, whereas criticism brings about rebellion, anger, and loss of self-worth.

Encouragement Works

Zig Ziglar, an internationally known motivational speaker, has said, “When we have positive input, we have positive output, and when we have negative input, we have negative output.” As a parent educator, mother, and grandmother, may I suggest that you need to be very careful of the words you choose to motivate your children?

It helps if you break up the word to read “en” courage, which means giving a gift of courage: the courage to keep trying, to keep up the good work, to focus on next time and not give up. This courage helps the child realize that he can make mistakes and yet will still be loved and valued, whereas “dis” couragement or criticism takes away the courage to try new things or work harder for fear of getting in trouble and displeasing the adults.

What Choices Could You Make Next Time?

Help the child and yourself recognize that mistakes are never final and that frequently, we get a do-over or a second chance. The past is done; we can learn from it and then focus on the future. You will find a free listing at ArtichokePress.com of encouraging words and phrases.

Thank You for Doing a Great Job

Those of you working with children on a daily basis do the most important work in the world. I applaud your efforts and “en” courage you to choose your words carefully when you want the children you care for to improve their behavior. Words have the power to build up or destroy. As caring adults, the goal is to strengthen the character of the child as well as get the jackets, bikes, and toys picked up on a consistent basis.

** This article is one of 101 great articles that were published in 101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life. To get complete details on “101 Great Ways to Improve Your Life”, visit http://www.selfgrowth.com/greatways3.html

Author's Bio: 

This article was written by Judy H. Wright, parent educator, family coach, and author of over 20 books on family relations. Feel free to use it in your newsletter or publication, but please give full credit to the author and mention the contact information of JudyWright@ArtichokePress.com, (406) 549–9813. Her Web site http://www.ArtichokePress.com has a full listing of books, tapes, newsletters, tele-classes, workshops, and additional free articles which will assist you in finding the heart of the story in the journey of life.