On the Need for Encouragement


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The more that I work with kids and adolescents, I find myself leaning on the wisdom of Alfred Adler, a world renown philosopher and psychiatrist who stated that a majority of our problems stem from a lack of encouragement. Kids today are facing a myriad of issues as they make their way through elementary school, junior high, high school, and onward. A portion of the students I sit with are bullied constantly, whispered about in the halls, excluded from social events, and verbally harassed over social networking sites. Others are stressed, trying to balance extra-curricular activities with part-time jobs and homework, all the while feeling pressured by well-meaning parents to finish college applications and clean their rooms and so on. Many struggle internally, privately wrestling with insecurity, self-critical thoughts, and low self-esteem, outwardly smiling and thinking nothing of the “incongruence”, or the mis-match occurring from their inner emotional world and their outer presentation of their feelings.  I would contend that teenagers these days are pretty discouraged.

Here’s the deal: I’m not advocating for looser boundaries at home or for parents to stop being parents because they fear that they might add to their teenager’s stress. I’m not even advocating for a greater awareness of what is being said in the halls or across social media to teenager these days, although that would be great. I am advocating for teenagers who are deeply discouraged, for those who do not feel accepted, for those that are neither esteemed nor understood. Our kids need encouragement; they need to be complimented and praised, they need to be “caught doing good”. As parents, teachers and friends, we must fight to foster positive interaction with our kids. It is of utmost importance.

When was the last time we caught our child or teenager “being good?” When was the last time we complimented him or her on a strength or unique quality of theirs? Are we quicker to punish or understand? How in tune are we of challenges and discouragement they are facing daily? E.E. Cummings once wrote that, “It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.” Try pouring a little more encouragement onto your children today – there is no such thing as “encouragement overdose.”