We are very proud of our very own Jessica Payne, LCSW-C, who contributed to the writing of this article by offering her wisdom and experience to the author. Scroll down or click the image to read in it’s entirety.
When raising kids, there are few things more important and more beneficial than encouragement. Encouraging them to make decisions on their own, to put themselves out there, or to try something new can be the key motivator that pushes them to take that next step.
“From the earliest stages of development, encouragement plays an important role in a child’s sense of self,” explains Jessica Payne, LCSW-C, CATP, an early childhood and young child therapist at Kentlands Psychotherapy in Gaithersburg, MD. “From learning how to walk to trying out for that play, children often lean on encouragement from their adults to muster up the courage to try.”
Providing encouragement starts to change the behavior of children from a very early age. In a study of toddlers, those younger than 15 months old who received encouragement from adults were able to complete simple tasks twice as often as those who didn’t receive that praise.1
Encouragement also has lasting effects as children get older. Psychologists in the Temple University Cognition and Learning Lab followed a group of children from age one up to age nine and tracked how praise from parents affected their motivation. They found that children who received this type of encouragement were more motivated to take on challenges and also believed that they had the ability to improve.
“Encouragement builds the confidence kids need to withstand the issues they deal with every day—from losses on the soccer field to bullying at school,” says Payne. Knowing they have the support of their parents in their corner makes it easier for them to deal with experiences that may otherwise get them down.
At the core of this, adds Payne, is a healthy relationship between parent and child. “In my experience, children who have healthy, secure attachments with their parents tend to have higher self-esteem,” she says. “Encouraging a child to try new or hard things while also being the nurturing home base they can count on [if] they fail is attachment parenting at its best.”
If you’re worried about giving your child a big head, don’t be. “It is not possible to be too encouraging,” assures Payne. “Encouraging your child to try new things, study for that test, make that friend, are all good things.”
That said, she does caution against confusing encouragement with pressure, especially when it pertains to trying something new. “As an early-childhood clinician, I do occasionally run into an issue where children feel cornered or ‘forced’ to do something they strongly do not want to do,” she explains. “Encouraging your child is great, but we also need to make sure we are listening to children and respecting their own boundaries, values, and interests.”
How to Send an Encouraging Note to Your Child
One of the easiest ways to encourage your child and remind them that you support them is by tucking an encouraging note into their lunch before sending them off to school.
“I love the idea of surprise notes in lunch boxes!” cheers Payne. “Not only can these notes give kids the extra oomph they need to push through the day, it also reminds them of the connection they have with their parents—even when they aren’t physically next to each other.”
Read on for tips that will help you write the perfect encouraging note.
When in Doubt, Keep It Simple
For average school days when your kids don’t have anything going on, a simple “I love you!” or “You’ve got this!” will suffice.
“Any reminder to your child that you are rooting for them is fabulous,” assures Payne. Some other simple and encouraging note ideas include:
- I hope you’re having a great day!
- You’re my number one!
- I believe in you!
- I’m so proud of you!
- You’re doing great!
- Keep up the good work!
- Keep being you!
For Big Days, Get Specific
On days that feature a highly-anticipated event—like a test or sports tryout—make sure you offer a little extra support. “If you know that your child has an audition, a test, or a presentation that day, including some specific encouragement for those events would be great,” suggests Payne.
Some event-specific note ideas include:
- You’re going to ace this test!
- You studied and know all the material. You’ve got this!
- You’re going to get the part!
- You’re the best singer/actor/soccer player I know!
- You’re going to wow everybody!
- You’re going to make the team!
- Good luck in your audition/tryout/presentation. You’ve got this!
- You’re totally prepared. Go get ‘em!
For Older Kids, Be Aware of Appearances
While encouragement certainly doesn’t go out of style as your kids get older, be conscious of the fact that your mode of encouragement might.
“Some teens might have some adverse reactions to a note from dad in their lunchbox,” says Payne, noting that you don’t want to embarrass them. Instead of writing an encouraging note on a bright yellow post-it, jot something quick onto the wrapper of their granola bar. Or skip the lunch box entirely and slip it into their backpack so they find it at their locker, instead of in front of their friends in the cafeteria.
You could also forgo the paper note all together. If they have a cell phone, send an encouraging text message at a time of day when you know they aren’t in class and won’t get in trouble for checking their phone.
No matter the method you choose, positive encouragement will go far toward improving your child’s self-esteem and helping them succeed, whether in the classroom, on the field, or in the playroom.
A Word from Verywell
Brightening your child’s day with an encouraging note is a great way to offer support from afar, let them know you’re cheering them on, and remind them that they can do anything they put their mind to. A little note in their lunchbox can go a long way!
For older kids or teens, encouragement is still important, but consider alternative methods, like a note in their backpack or a quick text message when it’s appropriate for them to check their phones. No matter the age, all kids benefit from love and support from their parents.
Let us know if Jessica or another one of our child therapists or parenting coaching therapists could be of help to you. Give us a call at (240) 252-3349.