Former US Representative George M. Adams is credited with saying, “Encouragement is the oxygen of the soul.” And who can argue with him?
From a young age we learn to take comfort in and draw energy from the encouragement of others. As kids are getting back into the routine of school and homework and early mornings once again, it’s a great time for parents to step it up in the encouragement department and join our kids in the pursuit of their goals and the development of their character.
Here are 10 ways you can encourage your elementary school child this year:
1. Share breakfast: It’s no secret that a great breakfast is an important start to the day, but don’t forget about the value of good company at the table as well. You may not have time to make eggs and bacon, but you can support your child by simply sitting down with him for five or ten minutes at breakfast.
2. Pass a note: Your child’s lunchbox and backpack are not just great vessels to carry pbj’s and binders. Drop in an encouraging note to let your child know that you believe in her and love her.
3. Volunteer at your child’s school: OK, we can all admit that this one brings with it an immediate pressure to be superparent, but if you have time for this kind of involvement, volunteering is a great way to familiarize yourself with your child’s school, his teacher and his friends while also helping out.
4. Ask questions (and really listen to the answers): This one might seem obvious, but how often do you find yourself multitasking while talking to your kids? Make it a point to occasionally leave the dishes, abandon the broom and sit down and listen.
5. Encourage effort, not just grades: It’s so valuable to understand your child and to notice if she is truly working to the best of her ability. Grades are one way of measuring that, but remember that they aren’t the only way, and be sure to encourage and praise her honest effort.
6. Get to know your child’s friends: You can better engage with your child if you know the friends he spends his time with. Invite friends over to your house and get to know them so you can encourage your child through her relationships, both in the positive and the negative times.
7. Create a comfortable “homework space”: Who doesn’t like to work in an inviting space? Make doing homework more enjoyable for your child by letting her pick out a few things she likes and designating a desk or a corner of her room as a “homework space.” If she helps set it up, she’ll be more excited to use it.
8. Spend regular time reading together: Even after your child can read on his own, one great way to encourage reading is to simply read together. Pick a book you will both enjoy and either read it to him aloud before bed or take turns reading to each other or to younger siblings.
9. Build a relationship with your child’s teacher: Maintaining a rapport with your child’s teacher allows you to be involved in what’s going on in the classroom. Then, when you have a question or concern, you’ll feel more comfortable making a phone call since you’re not a stranger.
10. Praise your child publicly: No one enjoys hearing a mother constantly brag about her children, but there are appropriate ways to praise your child in public that can go a long way in encouraging her. Notice when your child does something praiseworthy, and don’t hesitate to compliment her — even when others are listening.