We are BIG on encouragement around here.
I find that encouraging words are usually fairly easy to come by when things are going well.
“You did it!”
“You tidied all your toys! Look how clean your room is!”
But I’ve noticed that I’m not so great at encouraging my toddler when things aren’t going so well.
Those times when “Keep trying!” doesn’t cut it. When he’s looking up at me as if to say, “Mom! I’m trying and IT’S NOT WORKING!!!”
Those times when I can see his frustration reaching the point where he is *this close* to losing his cool.
And I don’t know what to say.
Instead of encouraging him, I usually end up doing it for him. Putting his coat on, helping put a basket on the shelf, whatever. I didn’t think much of it until recently when he started yelling “Help! Help!” when he didn’t feel like doing something. This would be quickly followed up with a “Mommy do it.”
So I’m thinking it’s time to stop jumping in with the quick fix.
I want him to learn that sometimes things don’t go as planned. I want him to learn that he is capable of handling whatever comes his way.
I saw a great tweet from @PEPParent beautifully illustrating this idea:
Every time I ‘helped’, I was really sending the message that I could do things quicker and better than G.
So though it’s been hard, I’ve started allowing him to struggle. Some new phrases I’ve used have really helped:
- When he’s struggling to fit a box back in the toy bench – “What’s another way it could fit?” (Instead of “Turn it the other way” or doing it for him)
- When he can’t snap the wheels back on his Lego cars – “I wonder if there’s another way to do that?” (Instead of “Here, give it to me. I’ll fix it.”)
- When he’s trying to put on a pair of shoes that are too small for him – “Hmmmm, those don’t seem to fit. What could you do differently?” (Instead of “Those are too small! No wonder you can’t get them on!”)
The very best part?
When I ask him to think about things differently, I can SEE his thought process change. When he was struggling to fit a box in the toy bench and I asked him if there was another way, he paused, thought about it, and turned the box so it would fit in the bench.
It was like I could actually see his wheels turning. Pretty cool 🙂
What do you say to encourage your kids when they’re struggling? Any lines you’d like to share? Let me know in the comments.
Image Credit: Matt McGee