3 Ways to Encourage Your Children Instead of Pressuring Them

Jaime Jo Wright

Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
Updated Sep 07, 2023
3 Ways to Encourage Your Children Instead of Pressuring Them

There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days. This type of pressure comes from various sources, not the least of which is academics, sports, extracurricular activities, and the incessant messaging barraging them via the media telling them what it means to be a kid. We’re even entering the age where our children will be faced with determining their own gender—something I never had to contend with because it wasn’t a scientific option.

So, with all these variants, we’re also seeing a continual climb in the charts for childhood depression, obesity, suicide, and learning challenges. These often result in a vast array of prescription medications meant to control or moderate the various emotional and mental health issues our children are plowing through. But the fallout doesn’t end there, either, because the medications bring with them health risks that have side effects, and the pressure on our kids becomes a domino effect that just continues to spiral out of control.

As parents, how do you encourage our children in this culture of high pressure and expectations? Are there ways to step outside of the box of the norm and find solutions based on grace and love and not in fear?

Janet Newberry of John15academy.com states: “Childhood isn’t a season of measuring up. It’s a season of growing up... ‘Burned out" is not supposed to describe children, but it does. A growing list of performance requirements comes accessorized with a longer list of labels and disorders for children who struggle to measure up... {but} the only way any of us really learn is when someone helps us.”

How can you help your children? Be an encouragement to them? Allow them to grow up unhindered by the fear of failing and, instead, grow up enriched by the truth of love?

Here are three ideas that are game-changers!

Photo credit: ©GettyImages/jacoblund
Children playing ring around the rosy

1. Give your child permission to be a child.

Kids were meant to run, play, explore, and use the five senses created in them. As adults—and as parents—we have all too often bought into the format of structure and achievement in such a way that the child’s worth begins to be measured against their performance in these.

Think about it this way: a child is taught to confine themselves to a desk for roughly six hours a day (and that’s being generous). This means six hours of sitting without the ability to wriggle and move and touch and explore. It also means that they will have been pushed to their limits of patience if we’re honest. But then, when they arrive home, more is on the schedule for them by way of homework (more sitting), or sports/lessons (physical activity but again, structured without implementation of the freedom to use their imaginations), and then imposed reading time before bed.

Consider taking a different approach. Allow your child to transform back into a child. Instead of building in more structure and more levels of achievement, consider building in time to play. To run. To laugh and howl. To explore. Send them on “mandatory” treasure hunts with lists of things to find outside. Engage them by ooo-ing and ahhh-ing over what they find and what they invent. Watch their childhood become one of exploration and wonder instead of burden and obligation.

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Dad disciplining his daughter

2. Be cautious of weighted responses.

Yes. We want to encourage our children, and we want to help point out—using constructive criticism—ways they can improve and develop their skills. But here is a caution to carefully consider: Not every response needs to carry with it a set of critiques—even ones that may be positive.

Children will stop interacting with us and stop showing us their excitement and achievements when our responses come with conditions or suggestions on how to do even better next time. These are weighted responses. They are responses that, to the child, mean praise with conditions.

Instead, use those types of responses for strategic teachable moments and reserve other times simply for encouragement and awe at the child’s show and tell. This type of encouragement gives them the freedom to explore and try without the expectation of being told how they could do better next time.

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a mom and a teen son, we need to focus on older-child adoption

3. Encourage your child to struggle.

Struggle is a part of life and a good part of life when put into a proper perspective. But in today’s society, struggle is often equated with not being good enough. It is the precursor to failure. The prophetic arrow to underachieving.

Instead, struggle should be positioned as a positive. Yes! You may lose all but one soccer game this year, and that is okay! Did we do our best? Did we push through the difficult times? Did we try hard even when we wanted to quit? Those are huge wins! Why? Because in life, a successful soccer season may be exciting, but it will wane and not play much into our children’s futures in the long run. But a successful perspective of struggle? The integrity learned by the positives that go into the quest to try? That will play into so many aspects of their life! And bonus! Even as a game “loser,” they’ll come out with a winning attitude. They’ll be encouraged. And yes, go get that ice cream cone to celebrate all they struggled through this season!

Struggle does not equal probable failure. This hat has been placed on our children academically as well. Struggling? Here’s a special class with a stigma of probable failure. Struggling? You likely have a mental focus issue, so here are some medications to “fix” you. Struggling? The odds aren’t great you’ll graduate top of your class, but let’s try and get you above an F.

Those avenues aren’t necessarily wrong or negative in and of themselves. But how we present them can be irrevocably damaging to our kids. How about we turn that struggle into something positive? A special class might be critical, but turning it into a stepping stone to continue their great potential is key. Medication might be needed, but not as a “fix” to the child being a problem, but instead as a means to assist the child in achieving their potential. Not graduating at the top of their class? When did that become the measurement of a child’s academic value? How about we help them grow to their potential?

Parents are critical in the development of their children. It starts at home. Our children need influences they can trust will see and cherish their value where they are. Not in what they might become. Not in what we want them to be. But in who they are now. This doesn’t mean every child gets a trophy, we never push them to achieve a goal, or we don’t expose them to coaching and teaching. No. This means that while they experience those things, we reinforce their worth in who they are without those things.

Encourage your child to see their value through the eyes of God. A fearless type of love without conditions and with infinite hope will increase your child’s self-confidence and their self-worth.

Photo credit: ©Getty Images/PIKSEL

Jaime Jo Wright is an ECPA and Publisher’s Weekly bestselling author. Her novel “The House on Foster Hill” won the prestigious Christy Award and she continues to publish Gothic thrillers for the inspirational market. Jaime Jo resides in the woods of Wisconsin, lives in dreamland, exists in reality, and invites you to join her adventures at jaimewrightbooks.com and at her podcast madlitmusings.com where she discusses the deeper issues of story and faith with fellow authors.

Originally published Wednesday, 06 September 2023.