Encouragement is more than using your words and actions to be a cheerleader and build each other up. For example, a form of encouragement is respecting leaders. That is, look for ways to cooperate and not be critical in your commentary, but instead be thankful to leaders for their efforts. Be especially thankful and less critical of leaders who are trying to positively impact the development of the youth in your life.
Here is a checklist of other ways you can offer encouragement through your interactions with children:
- Challenge them to join you in a project. Don’t let the youth loaf around for extended periods of time. Get them moving and being productive. Don’t emphasize their idleness, encourage them to accomplish something with you. “Come on, let’s wash the car together!”
- Offer support when the youth is feeling shy or has a fear of doing something wrong. Be sensitive about them not doing something out of their shyness or fear, and not because they are lazy. The lazy behavior needs the challenge mentioned above; the shyness needs your support. Know the difference. “Here, let me help you get started on your homework” for the fearful youth. “I challenge you to finish your homework in 10 minutes. I’ll set the timer!” for the idle youth.
- Support and guide the youth through a current weakness or limitation. Help them get stronger in this area by your words and actions. “I know you can’t do this math right now, but if you keep trying and asking for help, one day this will become easier for you. Remember when you didn’t know your multiplication facts? Well now you do because you kept at it.”
- Avoid situations where the youth experience negative or inappropriate behavior. Though we cannot avoid every source of negativity, we can make sure we don’t intentionally bring the youth into a negative place or situation. “I know you want to go over to your friend’s house, but I have to say ‘no’ until I have a chance to meet a parent there. Do you understand why?”
Throughout childhood into adulthood, youth need much help and encouragement. They experience temptations and situations where potential problems can occur in the moment and/or later on in life. Notice these situations and use this as an opportunity to strengthen them and bolster their resistance to poor decision-making. Through your words and actions you can T.E.L.L. them better.
This is the responsibility of all adults. You’ve heard it takes a village to raise a child. It takes adults in the village who want to do their part to make sure our youth don’t get sidetracked by wrong beliefs or practices. Become an adult who will help them; encourage the youth to become better!
Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love in every interaction!
In this post, I want to highlight Encourage.
Typically, when we think of encouragement, we think of using words focused on building someone up. Encouragement given at the right moment can be the difference between making it through a tough time, remaining stuck, or giving up. Supportive words or actions guide us toward better decisions. Look around, be sensitive when others are in need of your encouragement.
However, encouragement is more than responding to a difficult moment. We also encourage others by showing respect to hardworking leaders. In particular, we encourage the youth to make better decisions by showing respect to all the leaders working hard for them every day. The leaders can be the youth’s other parent, relatives, school personnel, church personnel, coach, or any individual who is in a position to lead the way for your child. By showing respect to these individuals, you not only model respectful actions and words, you are also encouraging the child to work with the person.
Growing up in our house, mom would not allow us to complain about our teachers … ever. She would interrupt us and say something like, “Stop. That teacher comes to school every day hoping you learn from him. Whatever problem you are having, let’s figure out what you can do to make it better.” Hearing this message throughout childhood was a valuable lesson because it caused me to grow up respecting the fact every teacher was there on my behalf. I learned to work hard for them because they were working hard for me. And, today I continue to have the upmost respect for teachers. The majority of them show up every day to make a difference. Thank the teachers in your life. They need your encouragement!
I repeated these words about respecting the hardworking teacher to my own children. Whenever there was a school problem, we would focus on what my child could do to make the situation better. This encouragement allowed them to gain experiences on how they can show up in difficult situations and not cast blame. The encouragement also caused them to keep a positive relationship with the educators who were trying to lead them. I strongly believe these interactions had a positive influence on their education, as it did with my educational experiences.
However, truth be told, there were instances where I strongly disagreed with what I heard my child saying about a teacher. Whenever I felt the decisions being made were negatively impacting my child’s learning, I would set up a meeting to have this conversation with the teacher, respectfully. My children never knew about these meetings. This was between the teacher and me. These meetings turned out to be beneficial for all: student, teacher, and parent. Only one occasion did I feel the need to request my child be removed and placed with another leader.
Having been in education for more than 30 years, I know about this from the teacher perspective as well. Most teachers appreciate working with students’ parents. I believe I can speak on behalf of my professional colleagues and say it is best when the school-home relationship is thought of as a team working on behalf of the student.
In this post, I have been focusing on the teacher; however, the same is true about the other leaders in a youth’s life: the other parent, relative, coach, etc. If you want to encourage your child to do well in school, sports, church, family life, etc., one of the best ways to do that is to show respect to the leaders there who are working hard for them in that situation. By you showing respect, you build stronger relationships with the other leaders, and more importantly you make the experience better for your child. The child continues to look up to the leader for direction and guidance. Whenever you have an issue, respectfully speak to the leader in private.
Encourage by showing respect to leaders who are working hard. Express your appreciation, say ‘thank you’ for his or her efforts. If you say nothing, how will they know where you stand? Remember, they need and deserve your support. Your words and actions also encourage the youth watching to learn respectful interactions. You encourage the child to work better with the leader. Every opportunity you can, encourage!
During every interaction, you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love to some extent. In other words, whatever you say and do informs others how you feel about the current situation, as well as your beliefs about those involved in the interaction. You T.E.L.L. others your thoughts and what you feel is acceptable to say and do in this relationship.
In this post, I want to focus on difficult interactions. In particular, the ones where you feel you messed up! Where you may feel ashamed, and desire a do-over.
Do you ever think back and wish you could do it over, or you could change the situation, or change person or people involved? Deep down, we know this is impossible. We cannot force others to change, nor can we change the past, no matter how hard we try. The key is to keep looking forward with the hope to know better and learn how to be better in the future.
The do-over moments are the ones where there is a tension between what you did and what you wish you had done had you known better or had you showed up as your best self. You just didn’t have it in you to show up in that moment, for whatever reason. Either you knew better and didn’t put your best ideas forward, or you didn’t know better and wonder what you could have done differently. I believe we have all been there.
These are the perfect moments to T.E.L.L. yourself and also find someone else who T.E.L.L.s you better. These are the perfect moments where you need to be taught, encouraged, listened to, and loved – so you can become better. Resentment or other limiting thoughts will not help you grow, they hold you down. By working through the situation, you allow good, at least better, solutions to emerge. You learn better ways.
Children experience similar tensions throughout childhood – from birth and beyond 18 years of age. Every child has moments where they just didn’t know how to show up better. They have moments where they do wrong, are imperfect, and want to have a do-over. They may not be able to have the do-over; however, they may learn a better way for the next time.
Will you be there for the youth in your life?
Will you be the one who T.E.L.L.s them better in these moments?
Will you be the one who can extract the good thoughts in the situation and offer better thoughts for the future?
Will you be the one who T.E.L.L.s them to keep looking forward and learning to know better for the next time?
Will you be the one who T.E.L.L.s them to ask for forgiveness if they did someone wrong?
In childhood, during this brief portion of life, the youth are actively gathering knowledge and tools to know and understand life. Your interaction may be what is needed to provide valuable knowledge and tools to mature and know better. T.E.L.L. them today, for now on.
Remember, during every interaction, you Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love to some extent.
As you’ve probably heard or read us say before, the T.E.L.L. message is more than just a message, more than just a clever anagram for Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love. T.E.L.L. is a lifestyle, a way of communicating and interacting with others.
To make T.E.L.L. more of a part of your lifestyle instead of something you remember to do every now and then, think of T.E.L.L. with the 5 Ws: who, what, when, where, why (and how).
Who should you T.E.L.L.?
EVERYONE! While the Tell Our Children nonprofit is dedicated to connecting and mentoring caregivers who desire to know more about T.E.L.L.ing youth, we believe EVERYONE needs to both be on the giving and receiving end of interactions that Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love them.
What should you T.E.L.L.?
Give messages and tell stories that teach, encourage, listen to, and love the person you’re interacting with. Teach them a better way, or more about yourself and your perspective. Encourage them to be better or make better decisions. Listen to their messages and their stories. Above all, love them no matter what.
When should you T.E.L.L.?
During EVERY interaction! There is no interaction that can’t benefit from a T.E.L.L.ing perspective.
Where should you T.E.L.L.?
EVERYWHERE! The place and time is always right to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love another person.
Why should you T.E.L.L.?
From an infant’s first breath, a child begins collecting life experiences. The youth come to know about living their life largely by watching and interacting with adults. Every interaction can have an impact on a person’s current and future thoughts and feelings. When adults are more aware of how they Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love a younger person, they will become better at helping the youth in their lives develop into strong, healthy, and resilient adults.
How should you T.E.L.L.?
With patience, both with yourself and with others, especially youth. Like most things, T.E.L.L.ing takes practice. Practice having interactions that teach, encourage, listen to, and love others. The more you make a point to T.E.L.L., the more it becomes part of how you interact on a daily basis.
The TELL blog from Tuesday was about seeing a child in need at any given moment and making the decision to be there in that moment for the child instead of just hoping someone else will take care of it. (Read the full post here.)
You do not have to be a parent or caregiver in order to be there for a child, and the child doesn’t have to be yours in order for you to T.E.L.L. (Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love) him or her better. Anybody can T.E.L.L. any child in any given moment. If you are a teacher, you have countless opportunities to Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love the children you teach on a daily basis. If you volunteer at your church in the children’s ministry, opportunities abound again! If you are a parent and your child is playing with friends, you not only can T.E.L.L. your child, but your child’s friends!
Personally, I have tried to incorporate the entire T.E.L.L. message into my everyday lifestyle and apply it not only to children, but to my friends, my co-workers, and even complete to strangers. While the T.E.L.L. message is delivered in a way that is easy to remember (as an anagram for Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love), the key to applying it is to be intentional about your interactions. Try to make every interaction you have a teaching, encouraging, listening, and loving one.
It isn’t easy at first, but the more you do it, the more you will want to do it, and the easier it becomes, and the more fulfilling and engaging your interactions will become!
I challenge you today to intentionally T.E.L.L. in at least one of your interactions today, or to reflect on a recent interaction you had that might have turned out differently had you intentionally used T.E.L.L.
Do you ever see a youth in need and just hope someone else will take care of it? Why not use this opportunity to care for the younger person? Maybe this is your moment to positively impact the younger person, as well as the future.
If not you, then who will T.E.L.L. the youth better in this moment? If not you, then who will Teach, Encourage, Listen, and Love this younger person before you? Please, do something. Don’t ignore the younger person and hope someone else will step in and turn things around. Don’t hope someone else will show up to have a positive impact on him or her.
You don’t have to do everything, just something that helps the younger person feel cared for in this moment. Maybe a smile or hug. Maybe ask a question or two to let them know you are interested in their well-being. Maybe you interact more, or less, but communicate something to give the message: “I care; I believe in you; I wish better for you.”
You doing something may influence the moment for the younger person. You may also influence future generations by your act of kindness. Never see a youth in need and hope someone else will show up and give this person care. You be that person.