Encouragement Can Go a Long Way

If you are a parent, you have probably experienced at least a few moments of disruptive behavior from your child. While this is to be expected as children grow up and gain independence, it can be extremely stressful and, at times, overwhelming. Thankfully, there are some skills parents can learn not only to help decrease some of their children’s undesirable behavior, but to build their self-esteem in the process.

  1. Teach your child the behaviors you DO want to see. It can be so easy to hyper-focus the irritating, disruptive, and sometimes disrespectful actions coming from children. Shifting the focus to what you’d like to see your child do gives them a direction to follow. Without guidance, they will likely fall back on what they know—the undesired behavior.
  2. Pay attention to and encourage appropriate behaviors. When you catch your child doing something responsible, appropriate, or positive, let them know! Encouraging words act as a positive reinforcer to the behavior while also identifying a strength in the child. It is lasting and meaningful to the child because it boosts their sense of self-efficacy. Be sure your encouraging words do not place a value judgment on your child—for example, instead of saying, “You listen so well when you’re not texting your friends,” you could say, “I love when we are able to talk and listen to each other.”
  3. Be consistent in rewarding good behavior and ignoring undesirable behavior. Consistency is always difficult when we consider the daily demands of all of our lives. As much as you can, be consistent in your praise and your ignoring of disruptive behaviors. Children will learn more quickly and develop more trust in you and themselves with consistency.
  4. Use reflective listening with your child. Reflecting back and/or elaborating on what your child says to you lets them know you are interested in what they are doing, thinking, and feeling. They will naturally want to share more with you, and what you have to say will become more important to them.
  5. Let them know what you like about them. Your words mean so much to your child. They will start to feel good about themselves the more they hear they are worth being celebrated and loved without any conditions. Again, be sure to stray away from placing a value judgment on your child. Simply name their strengths, and they will start to build a healthy sense of self.

If you are walking through a difficult season with your child and are in the Chicago area, please feel free to contact Olive Branch Counseling Associates, Inc. at 708-633-8000.

Written by Kathryn

2021 Graduate Intern


Schroeder, C. S., & Gordon, B. N. (2002). Assessment and treatment of childhood problems: A clinician’s guide. Guilford Press.

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