Friday, December 11, 2015

Make Your Words Count: Encouraging Statements to Focus Children on Effort

Encouraging words are words that aim at building children’s self-confidence or trust in their own abilities to master a skill and to solve their own problems. Children need to understand that it is okay to make mistakes; trial and error are part of the learning process, and this is how we master new and challenging skills. Parents and teachers can encourage children to remain optimistic and positive in their ability to learn new skills or to improve current skills. When the child makes a mistake, simply shifting his/her focus from failure (problem-oriented) to hopefulness (solution-oriented) can do wonders in improving the child’s attitude and self-confidence. We can help children see personal or academic errors and mistakes as both external (not as a personality trait or defining who they are) and controllable; that is, something that it can be improved through effort and using specific learning strategies. We help children focus on effort by consistently noticing and appreciating the things they do to better themselves.
Parents and teachers also encourage children by helping them shift the focus away from causes (why the problem is happening) and toward goals, or where they are headed; that is, focusing children on what they want and what they need to do (steps) to get what they want. Our encouraging role resembles the role of a sports coach, with as little criticism as possible but with adequate supervision, detailed directions (the how to or procedure), and plenty of support. Like a sports coach, we identify and build on the child’s strengths (e.g. the child has a good sense of humor, he is good with numbers, is organized, and has a good memory), helping the child identify how that unique set of strengths can help in acquiring a specific skill or in reaching a particular goal. Examples of encouraging statements that focus children on effort are:
  • That’s a great effort. Don’t worry about the small mistake.
  • Keep trying. I know you can work this frustrating problem out.
  • I know you will figure out a good way to do this next time.
  • Keep at it; I know you will figure this out. Do you want my help?
  • It is okay to make mistakes, we all do. What do you think you learned from it?

A Call to All Teachers:

Proudly announcing our new group for educators worldwide, “We Teach the World.” Our aim is to connect teachers and related school personnel all over the world, so that we can share much-needed ideas, strategies, and lesson plans as well as all kinds of resources in classroom management and in student discipline. Coordinating our effort worldwide, we can tell each other where to find important resources and information. If you administer a teaching blog or have created educational resources to facilitate our job, you are welcome to share them here. As long as they contribute to education, we want to know of your business. Teachers with questions, post them here; mentors and seasoned teachers, your valuable experience and unique perspective matter to us, so make your voices heard. Because isolated, we teachers are imaginative, resourceful and resilient, but connected, connected we are imaginative, resourceful, resilient AND powerful. To join us, click on, “We Teach the World.”

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