Families that practice encouragement promote one another’s growth and development, helping each family member reach his or her full potential. These families structure family life so that members can develop intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.

Members of strong families feel they really belong in their family. Family members feel accepted for what they are and promote one another’s self-esteem. They celebrate each other’s successes and help each other learn from mistakes.

Strong families spend time together, but also give their members privacy. For example, family members encourage one another to become involved in individual hobbies, extracurricular activities, and relationships outside the family. Activities outside the family help foster the development of skills and maturity needed to be self-sufficient. In fact, one national study found that encouragement of independence is associated with fewer behavior problems among youth. All family members are given the opportunity to develop their own identity as a unique and separate person.

There are many ways to foster encouragement at home:

Discovering Talents. Consider holding a family night to help family members discover their gifts or talents. Help them understand that a major purpose for talents is to benefit others, as well as for our own enjoyment. On a sheet of paper, have family members list things they feel they are good at. Children frequently list obvious talents such as music or athletics. Help them be aware that skills such as listening and being compassionate are also talents that should be celebrated and that can be developed. Look for these hidden talents in your children and point them out.

Encourage family members to develop their talents. Have them select a talent they would like to work on during a specified period of time. Provide opportunities for all to share their talents inside and outside the home.

“Strength Bombardment.” At the dinner table or during a family night, take turns sharing with each other the positive traits that make each family member special. Focusing on assets and strengths helps build feelings of self- and family worth.

Encouraging Words. Sometimes life gets rough and we need all the encouragement we can get. An encouraging word from a family member can really come in handy. Think of some things you might say to a family member, like these:

“Good luck on your exam!”

“Smile! You look great in braces!”

“You are great with your hands. You’ll do great on that science project.”

Put the words on sticky notes or on 3 x 5 cards you have cut in half. Tuck or stick them in places where they can be found, such as on bathroom mirrors, or in lunch sacks, briefcases, and shirt pockets.

Homework and Hobby Connections. Set aside time to help children with homework or other projects they are involved in, such as learning a new craft.

Sharing Talents in the Community. Attend activities where family members are sharing their talents, such as music recitals and school plays.

Quiet Time. Structure the home environment so that both parents and children can pursue individual activities. For example, one area of the home could be designated as a “quiet place” during the evening for homework, reading, and other quiet projects.

For Further Reading:

Fantastic Families: 6 Proven Steps to Building a Strong Family
by Nick and Nancy Stinnett, Joe and Alice Beam

The Intentional Family: Simple Rituals to Strengthen Family Ties
by William J. Doherty

Additional Websites

Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service Website – Arkansas Families

Children, Youth, and Families Education and Research Network (CYFERnet) at www.cyfernet.org includes has practical, research-based information from the nation’s leading universities. Includes hundreds of articles on early childhood, school-age children, teens, parent and family, as well as community.