Posted in Parenting

Want to Really Motivate Your Kids? Encouragement

Did you know?? There is a big difference between praise (good job!) and encouragement  (I really like the progress I’m seeing!). Say those phrases to yourself a few times. One of them really makes you feel a lot more satisfied and warm inside, right?! It turns out that there is a reason for it.

I stumbled upon my first article online about using encouragement over praise a few years ago, right before I made the smart switch to positive parenting. I liked what I read, but I kept forgetting to employ it consistently. I nearly forgot about it all together until I started reading my positive parenting books and made a conscious effort to really go for it. There are several articles to read about why to use encouragement over praise — and you should read them — but what I want to write about is how I got the ideas to stick the second time and the results that I noticed in my kids. 

Before I dive in, I want to tell you that the book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time by Amy McCready, really helped me to get going on the encouragement front. This book is fantastic because she lists what phrases to use instead of the generic, “good job.” First off, there is nothing wrong with the occasional praise. I use it sparingly too. But that added emphasis on the action makes all of the difference. A quick Google search will help you find some encouragement phrases, too. Again, I definitely recommend reading the articles that explain why encouragement works. Here is how I implemented the strategy and got it to stick:

  1. Write down encouraging phrases or starts of phrases on a piece of paper and leave it in a place you can easily glance at them. Like most moms, I spend most of my time in the kitchen/dining area when my kids are home. I’m cleaning up, fetching snacks, helping with homework, you name it! I spend the bulk of my afternoons to early evenings in that one spot in my house. So, I have my piece of paper tucked near the back corner of my counter and wall, where I can easily see it to quickly get ideas, but it’s out of the way so the kids don’t really notice it. That was the biggest help for me.
  2. Practice those encouraging phrases with yourself, spouse, and friends. Practice makes perfect, right? Yep, I found that the more I used the phrases, the easier it got to make the switch. Plus, encouraging words can always brighten someone’s day, including your own day. So, get practicing right away and watch those faces light up!
  3. Read, re-read, and refresh yourself often. Remember how I read that online article about encouragement, and it didn’t really stick that first time? Out of sight, out of mind, for sure. So, if it helps to keep your book handy or to print out or bookmark your article(s), do it to keep those ideas fresh in your mind. I keep my books, which are covered in post-it notes and tabs marking important pages, on my dresser in my bedroom, and that way I can just pull them out and get right to whatever page I need right away.

When I consistently employ encouragement-over-praise, I do see an improvement in my children’s behavior. I see that they are more willing to finish the task. I see the glow on their faces when they know how proud I am of them and how proud they are of themselves — they feel accomplished and more positive about themselves! I also notice a difference in how they respond to me. With a quick shot of praise, maybe I get a “thanks” sometimes, but with encouraging words, I’ve got their full attention. Their little antennas perk-up (so to speak) because they want to hear what it is that I like seeing in what they’ve done. Finally, when they know exactly what they’ve done that was so good, they are more apt to repeat it. They are motivated!

I’m not saying that I am perfect at utilizing encouragement every single time. Sometimes life moves so fast that a quick “good job” or “well done” is all that you can get in. And that’s okay, too! Sometimes we even relapse. I can tell you from experience that you will notice a difference in that direction, too, as you’ll have more breakdowns in behavior and motivation. But, every time I go back to being more consistent about encouragement, things always seem to improve, even if it’s by a little bit. Hey, that every bit is always worth it! Take note on their reaction as you begin to implement the change to encouragement. That is usually motivation enough to keep me going!

Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Practicing, Working Parent

How I Work at Home When the Kids are Home

Working at home while the children are in the house can be a monumental challenge. I’m not gonna lie: they are my hardest days, and any parent that has tried this knows exactly what I’m talking about. The kids are off school today for Labor Day, so it’s loud, it’s chaotic, it’s a [literal] mess — I had 2 sets of blanket tents and empty fruit and cereal bowls covering my dining area just one hour ago, and laundry is piling up! The blanket tents and loud zombie playing are super fun, but with concerts starting back up, I still have to practice. And of course, then there are the inevitable arguments breaking out and all the other small “fires” (so to speak) to put out. Put it all together, and it’s very difficult to work and can leave you frazzled. It’s so easy to want to give up.

Lately, I have found the best way to handle this is to do the work in chunks: work a bit, then play, work a bit, then play. I definitely allow screen time during my work time, which does help immensely, but since I limit them to 2 hours per day it’s not enough time to get my practicing finished. So, we’ve had to experiment a lot to find a workable solution for everyone, or something that the children will at least tolerate for me. For some parents, working quite early in the morning and after the kids have gone to bed is a good solution for them. Since I’m a musician, I can’t exactly get away with that on my flute, but I have left my quieter work for when they are in bed. In the past, I have tried to do all of my practicing in the morning, leaving my afternoons free to play with my kids, but I still found myself drifting towards working in chunks anyway. Another thing that has worked well is when I’m lucky enough to have my husband home at the same time (sadly, not today), one of us can be with the children while the other one works, and then we’ll switch off. I have tried many different ways of squeezing in work while they are home.

I don’t believe that there is a solution that works perfectly well every single time. Something that may work one day doesn’t work at all the next. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, something goes wrong. I get it. I think the key is being flexible enough to allow change to happen without disrupting our work entirely. Yes, this takes quite a bit patience and ingenuity to work around major disruptions, but developing this fluidity can save you a lot of frustration and may make you more productive overall. (Just for the record, it took me 3 chunks of time to get this blog written!)