50 Tiny (but Powerful!) Ways You Can Encourage Your Kids Every Day
Experts share the little things you can do right now to help your child be more confident, resilient, curious, and motivated, while also helping them know they are loved.
Help them set a summer goal
“Setting and achieving goals is one of the most important skills kids develop. Start small by encouraging your little one to have goals that are within reach and appropriate for their age or ability. Then praise them for their success or help them overcome failure by providing appropriate tools and encouraging feed back.” —Corina Bethencourt
Give them a choice at lunchtime
“Choices make kids feel in more control and therefore give them confidence and ultimately even make them more self-sufficient. Give your toddler the choice of which shirt they want to wear when getting dressed or what they want for lunch from a small menu of options. Let your older child choose a project for school. It is so easy to add choices in the day rather than deciding for them. Even if it takes longer for them to do themselves, let them.” —Alison Mitzner, MD, pediatrician and mother. If getting dressed is your battleground, try these 11 tricks help your child get dressed with less fuss.
Praise the effort, not just the result
“If your child is trying to learn something and do something, keep praising them as they go, not only when they finish the end result. Although when they finish, it’s fine to praise them for that too. This will motivate your child to keep going and and have the confidence to try new things. If at first they don’t succeed, support them to keep trying.” —Alison Mitzner
Sign them up for piano lessons
“Playing a musical instrument helps your child develop self motivation, persistence, and increases confidence—all skills that will be useful later in life for things beyond music. Remind them that ‘all experts started as beginners’ and give them plenty of positive reinforcement.” —Alison Mitzner. Plus studies show that learning music can help your child get better at math!
Have them share “roses and thorns” every day
“Each day have your child share one success or positive thing from the day (the rose) and one mistake or problem from the day (the thorn). Even better, have each person in the family take a turn, say at dinnertime, sharing their experiences. This teaches children to feel good about their successes and also recognize that mistakes and problems are just part of the process. It leads to more self-assured, resilient, and competent kids at any age.” —Nicole Beurkens, PhD, licensed child psychologist. Try these 10 little ways to encourage your kid to learn gratitude.
Share your own “roses and thorns”
“Children are often surprised to hear that adults mess things up too. When you share your own successes and mistakes, it can normalize it for them and make them less fearful of their own errors and problems. When children can identify and appreciate their successes as well as mistakes or failures, it builds confidence and frees them up to be more creative in trying new things because they aren’t as afraid of failure.” —Nicole Beurkens
Work on a difficult puzzle together
Giving children challenging puzzles to solve lets them know that you believe that they have the intelligence and problem solving skills to figure things out. Resist the urge to do it for them. Instead help them through it with comments like ‘I know you can figure this out,’ ‘You’ve got great ideas and I bet you can come up with a way to solve this,’ or simply ‘You can do it!’ This helps children develop the belief that they can do hard things, and putting the emphasis on the child’s ability to think through and tackle challenges is critical to building positive self-esteem, resilience, curiosity, and independence.” —Nicole Buerkens.
Drop the “but…”
“Providing consistent and positive reinforcement, recognizing strengths, and clarifying desirable behaviors, sets a structure of positive interactions and validates strengths. But when praise is qualified or conditional, it backfires. For example, if you tell your child, ‘Great job cleaning your room but…I wish you would do that all the time,’ the initial praise loses effectiveness and turns a positive into a negative. Don’t put conditions on your praise.” —Mayra Mendez, PhD, LMFT, licensed psychotherapist and program coordinator for mental health services at Providence Saint John’s Child and Family Development Center in Santa Monica, CA
“It is so important to show your child affection. This may include daily hugging, kisses, telling your child you love them, involving yourself in play with your child, listening to what your child has to say, showing interest in your child’s activities by asking them to tell you about their experiences, and prompting your child to acknowledge what went well in their day.” —Mayra Mendez. Hint: This is one of the 16 things parents with young children want you to know.
Talk about that time you tried drugs or drank too much
“When talking to your teens, it’s important to share your own risky experiences from your teen years. Interpret them and tell them what you learned. Prepare them for both successes and failures and to face the consequences of their decisions. Because we’re not the only influence on our teens, we must be the best influence.” —Tim Elmore, PhD, author of more than 30 parenting books and founder of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit leadership development and training organization for teens