With small children, especially, there is so much for them to become discouraged about. They are trying to learn new things, and they often don't succeed on the first (or even the second, or third, or fifth) attempt. They frequently receive correction for childish behavior or self-centered attitudes. All of this can leave them feeling down.
That's where encouragement steps in. It is a powerful force in anyone's life. All things begin to brighten under the refreshment encouragement provides.
In Nancy Campbell's book, How to Encourage Your Children, she suggests writing the name of each one of our family members across the top of a journal page with columns below their names. Each day, aim to say at least one encouraging thing to each person. If you did, put a check by that person's name. Make it your goal for this to become second-nature.
Here's an example. Yesterday, I encouraged my son, who is learning to read. He doesn't always like it, because he thinks it's too hard sometimes. We sat curled up on the couch together, with the afternoon sun streaming through our front windows in such a pretty way. It was a special memory. While I was making dinner, I told him how I really enjoyed sitting with him in that pretty light and listening to him read. I encouraged him that he's getting better and better at it, and I am proud of him for doing hard things and not giving up. He just beamed.
I think it's important to not only praise the good things our children do, but also (and more importantly) to praise who they're becoming. When we see our children helping each other or saying kind and complimentary things to one another, lavish the praise! It will happen more and more.
As I wrote yesterday, Michelle Duggar--supermom of 19 that she is--is so big on the power of encouragement. If there's a secret weapon in a mom's arsenal to bring about good behavior and positive attitudes, she'd know, mainly through experience. I think that secret weapon is encouragement. Plus, as we look for and point out the good in our children, it helps our attitudes toward them as well--making for a happier family all around.
"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thess. 5:11)