Were you ever a cheerleader? Maybe you didn’t think your personality was perky enough for the job. Perhaps you tried out, but didn’t make the team. Or maybe like me, you couldn’t do a cartwheel to save your life. Regardless of your situation back then, if you’re a mom today, congratulations. You are now a cheerleader. Or at least you should be.
As a mom, cheering for my kids at their sporting events comes naturally. There’s excitement in the air. Adrenaline is pumping. And if my daughter scores the winning point, this calm, soft-spoken Mama can get as rowdy as the next gal.
But here’s a question. Am I cheering for my daughter on ordinary days?
It shouldn’t be difficult. After all, I love my kids. I believe in them. I want the best for them. But in the busyness of life, sometimes I overlook simple opportunities to encourage them.
Here’s the other challenge. A parent’s responsibility is to point out and correct bad behaviors. If I’m not careful, I can fall into the trap of only mentioning the negative stuff.
“You left your dirty clothes on the floor.”
“You forgot to take your lunch money again.”
“Stop teasing your sister!”
Last summer my youngest gave me a little reminder about the importance of encouragement. Her softball team had just won a game and we were about to head home.
Normally, we’d discuss the game as we drove home. We’d talk about what she did well and offer suggestions for improvement. But on this day, I had barely left the parking lot when Madison looked at me with anticipation.
“Tell me something I did good,” she said.
Most kids don’t express it quite so bluntly, but Madison needed encouragement. She couldn’t wait to get to the good stuff!
Unfortunately as our kids grow older, they realize that the world can be a discouraging place. Kids at school make negative comments. Coaches have high expectations. Teachers can be demanding. That’s when a mother’s encouragement becomes even more important. After all, if we’re not cheering for our kids, who will? Our attitude can significantly affect our child’s attitude.
Here are some simple reminders about encouraging our kids.
My oldest daughter recently got a surprise during a volleyball game. Her sweet friend showed up with a gigantic sign and throughout the entire game, cheered her on. My daughter, Emily, is not one who enjoys the spotlight. In fact, I’m not sure if her face was flushed from playing volleyball, or from her friend’s enthusiastic cheers. But Mattlyn cheered anyway. Before long, my husband joined in the fun. Maybe Emily was slightly embarrassed, but she was also delighted.
It’s a good lesson for parents. Your child might be humble and dismiss your compliments as no big deal. Or they might get slightly embarrassed. Cheer anyway.Celebrate their character qualities.
Don’t forget to compliment your kids for reasons beyond looks, athletic ability and academics. For example: “That was so kind of you to share with your sister.” Or “I know you’ve worked hard to improve your serve. I admire your perseverance.”
So what if the towels weren’t folded just the way you would do it. Focus on the effort, not the final result. Remember to say thank you. Just as we like to be appreciated, so do our kids.
Show your affection.
Do you know what really communicates love to your kids? Each child is different. If their love language is quality time, put down the cell phone and focus on your child. If it’s physical touch, give them plenty of hugs, kisses and snuggles on the couch. If they need words of affirmation, make sure to encourage them verbally. For more information about figuring out your child’s love language, check out the book, The Five Love Languages of Children, by Gary Chapman.
Go ahead. Brag a little.
Let your kids overhear you talking positively about them to grandparents, friends, teachers, the checkout lady at Target … 🙂
Sometimes being a cheerleader is tough. Kids aren’t perfect. But good cheerleaders don’t walk off the field when their team fails. They support them and keep looking for the best in them – even when things go wrong.
If your parents weren’t generous with compliments, praising your kids might feel a bit awkward. But remember, it’s not about pumping them full of sunshine. You’re not trying to coddle them. Your words are powerful. They can encourage, or they can discourage. What words will your child remember when they grow up?
So once again, congratulations! You are your child’s greatest cheerleader. You don’t have to do cartwheels. There’s no need to lug pom-poms everywhere you go. You just need to believe in your child and remember to show them.
And the very best part? A perky personality is optional.