From the Parenting Coach's Desk

D-E-F: Deliver Encouragement Frequently (ABC's of Parenting)

In the last article we looked at the ABC of parenting: Action Before Conversation. Now let's look at a second concept in the alphabet soup of effective parenting.

Deliver Encouragement Frequently (DEF).

This is so obvious, yet difficult to remember sometimes in the midst of our busy daily lives. We know our children need support from us. And we want to provide both emotional and physical nurturing for them. We've all heard the great advice: "catch them being good." It sounds so easy. So, how do we do that?

Children often need encouragement the most when we're feeling the least inclined to give it. This may be a result of our own level of stress, the child's behavior, the demands of an ordinary day, or all of these factors.

If we start with ABC, Action Before Conversation, we can lay the groundwork for DEF, Deliver Encouragement Frequently. For example, you walk into the house after a stressful day to discover that your child has created havoc with the freshly cleaned floor. The child's friends are there. You feel your frustrated reaction and the impulse to speak out.

Stifle it. Say "hello". And take action, by taking care of yourself first. Go to your room, change your clothes, count to ten, focus on relaxing, and plan your next move. You want to be sensitive to the fact that you've just greeted your child, and that peers are still in the house. If you can't live with the dirty floor for a while, then calmly get your child's attention and request that his/her friends leave. Once they're gone, express your concern and ask for cooperation in addressing it. If you can live with the dirty floor for a while, simply wait until later in the evening when everyone has unwound a bit and you have some private family time.

DEF is a balancing act. We balance our need for respect and cooperation from our child, with our child's need for structure and teaching. And we do this in a constant state of change. For our child is a dynamic force in our lives. S/he may be unable to toddle up the stairs alone today, and then run up them tomorrow. S/he couldn't ask for what s/he wanted when you left the house this morning, and is able to speak it clearly when you pick her up from daycare.

Encouragement from mom or dad inspires cooperation from a child. So, for the sake of our children, let's all deliver encouragement frequently.