It’s normal for parents to worry about their kids.
After all, we know that what happens during childhood and adolescence has a major impact on their futures. We want the best for them, so when we think they’re struggling in an area or aren’t reaching their full potentials, we want to help.
Our goal is to help them find happiness and fulfillment in life and its many facets. This is true of their friendships, school life, family life, extracurricular activities, and leisure time.
But it’s important to understand the balance between encouraging your child and pushing too hard.
Know Your Child
One of the most important parts of finding this balance is to have a true understanding of your child and their personality.
We may think we know them better than they know themselves, and maybe we do. But that isn’t always the case.
If we’re an extrovert and our child is an introvert, we may see their quiet nature as a sign of poor social skills and push them too much socially.
Take the time to study your child. Observe them when they don’t know you’re watching. Watch what makes them happy. Notice how they respond to stress. Remember what they were like when they were toddlers and preschoolers.
What kind of behavioral or personality patterns do you see? When you’ve done this, also stop to consider any behavioral changes you’ve seen in the last year or several months.
You may pinpoint areas they’ve always struggled in and newer areas where they may need encouragement. After you’ve done this, evaluate what’s important.
If they’re consistently struggling in school, this is obviously an area where they need encouragement. Likewise, if they used to have a large group of friends but now rarely interact with anyone their age, encouragement is called for.
Understand Your Own Motivations
Reflecting on your own motivations for wanting to “encourage” your child in certain ways is helpful. Maybe you always wanted to take music lessons, but your parents never bothered.
You might assume that your child feels the same way. But if they’d rather take art classes or play sports, it’s important to keep this in mind. Otherwise, your attempts to encourage may backfire.
What’s Your Approach?
If you were a child, how helpful do you think your method of encouragement would be? While all kids are different, there are typically universal best practices for communicating with them. These include being respectful, patient, loving, kind, and open.
Getting angry at them, belittling or shaming them, or bullying them into trying something new is not at all helpful. These approaches definitely fall into the category of pushing too hard.
It’s often best to start small when you’re encouraging your child. Identifying rewards that motivate them also helps.
If you’d like to help your shy child become more comfortable with other kids, start by inviting one classmate over rather than three or four. If your child hates to exercise, find fun ways to get them moving physically. Involve yourself and set them up to succeed.
If keeping their room tidy is a goal, set an example in the rest of the home and talk about what helps you motivated to clean up (as long as you’re not lecturing them!).
Set small goals with rewards along the way. Ask your child to help choose the rewards that would mean the most to them. As they make progress with smaller steps, gradually increase the challenges to something bigger.
If your efforts to encourage your child continue to fall short or only seem to produce more tears, frustration, and resentment, it’s important to seek a professional evaluation.
There could be much more going on than you realize: learning disorders, childhood depression, or bullying, for example. A family therapist can come alongside your family as you build the brightest future for your child. Please read more about family counseling and reach out to our office today to learn more.