Watching my wiggly three kids prepare for a photo shoot, I asked my older daughter to stand straight and tall. She gracefully straightened up, smiling sweetly. I responded, "Great job, Honey, you look beautiful!" Quickly her sister and brother also straightened and gave happy grins. Oh yes, the power of encouragement reigns!

I first learned to use this powerful, positive tool years ago while teaching Sunday School. Walking by a young child who was seriously coloring a lion, I commented on his neat work by staying inside the lines with his bright crayons. Within moments I noticed everybody at the table coloring much better, trying to stay within the lines. Deciding to test my thinking, I told another young boy how well he had written his name at the top of the page. Instantly all the pages at the table had names at the top. Wow! I knew encouraging others was important, but now I had discovered that it is also a great tool to motivate. 


As a homeschooling mom, I have found encouraging words to be a beautiful way to keep harmony in the home without causing strife, discouragement, or resentment. It is definitely not foolproof, but it is beneficial.

When I see one of my children put in an extra effort on a task, I try to hug them and give them verbal praise. For example, when my daughter decided to not only straighten the bookshelf, but also organize our small library by the last name of the author, my husband and I praised her highly, pointing out the additional effort she gave without being asked. She glowed at our words and continued frequently to add extra effort in her tasks. Her siblings took note, as they too improved in giving extra effort! 

When I commented on the great job my son did in making his bed each morning and how much I appreciated that he remembered to do it without being reminded, inevitably, the next day, his sisters had done the same. And when I remember to remark on the orderly manner the dishes are put into the dishwasher, at the next meal the dishes are also put in more neatly. Giving praise can motivate others as well as encourage better work.

School Work

I've also implemented the use of positive reinforcement as we homeschool. Sadly, I have found that it is much easier for me to see what my kids are not doing correctly than it is to see their great effort or superior work.  So, each day I try to focus on finding something each one of my children is doing well and comment on it. This can be as simple as commenting on how well they're lining up their math problems to how neat their cursive page is. One day I remember watching my daughter help her sister with a chart she was making.  I smiled and said, "How kind you are to be helping!" Their brother quickly offered his service, and the project became a fun memory of working well together. What a sweet atmosphere encouragement can bring! 


I must also give cautionary advice. Complimenting mediocre work can cause difficulty and substandard work. (It falls in a category similar to flattery, which I think borders on a lie). One day, when I was tired of the line of shoes in our small mudroom, I pointed to the designated cabinet and reminded the children that this is where shoes belong. My son complied quickly as I left the room. Hearing the noise, I commented, "Great job, Son."  Within minutes all the shoes were shoved in the cabinet in a huge pile of disarray! I had not watched him carelessly throw his shoes in the cabinet and had complimented lazy work. The next hour was spent sorting shoes and cleaning up what could have been avoided if I'd been more careful.  

Overusing encouragement can also make it less effective. Many mornings I would hug my kids and happily say, "Good morning! What a great smile on your face!" After a while I would see half smiles at best and even some rolling eyes." The routine had become meaningless, and I needed to change my greeting and personalize it for each of my kids. (I had to remind myself that we are making memories here)!

Another problem I have caused was encouraging only one of my children several times in a day. I saw that I was creating some resentment and frustration rather than encouraging all my kids. Not wise! Avoid these troublesome pitfalls!

Giving encouragement to your children, especially if you're focusing on important things and speaking sincerely, is a great way to nurture your kids and bring happiness to the home. It’s a simple tool and a joy to use!