Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Power of Encouragement

I just got back from a trip to Arizona with my husband. During this trip we had the opportunity to listen to Janine Driver speak twice. She shared powerful messages about body language and communication. At the end of her second talk, she shared something that really resonated with me. Give people the traits you want them to have. She cited an example of police negotiating with a man holding people hostage. When the police spoke to the criminal, they said things like, "We've heard that you're a man of your word." The officers were subtly encouraging the criminal to follow the orders they were giving. Giving this man the qualities and traits they needed him to have helped save hostages. It was a smart move and it worked.

Of course, as a mom and teacher, I am thinking about how this applies to the interactions I have everyday! Driver's message goes hand in hand with Dr. Becky Bailey's in her book, Easy to Love, Difficult to Discipline. One of Dr. Bailey's mantras in this book is, "What you focus on, you get more of." As I think about the ways I communicate with the people around me, I want to be very cognizant of the traits I am subtly assigning them. I want to focus on positive traits! For example, if I am continually telling my two year old, "Don't play with the baby wipes." I am shining my light on the baby wipes, her actions, and the fact that she is making a poor choice about what to play with.  Instead, I can give people around me positive traits and encouragement. I can say to my daughter, "We use the baby wipes when we change your diaper. Right now we're playing. Let's play with your puzzles over here! Look at you! You're playing with the puzzles! It's so much fun!" This shifts my focus to what I want my daughter to do. It also tells my daughter I know she's capable of making good choices when it comes to playtime.

Translating this to the classroom is an easy move. If I'm continually telling students, "Stop talking." I am shining my light on students' talking. I am also subtly assigning them the trait of chatty students. I can focus on positive traits and encourage students to behave appropriately. Instead I might say, "You wanted to talk to your friend. Right now it is time to read quietly. You can talk with your friend afterward. You may sit on the beanbag chair or on the carpet square to do your reading. Which is best for you? You chose the beanbag chair and you've already opened your book to read! Good for you!" In this scenario I have simply stated that the student wanted to talk with his friend. This is not negative! We all want to talk with our friends. Also, by giving the student two positive choices, I have communicated to him that I believe in his ability to make a smart choice for reading time. I've also provided encouragement that this student is off to a great start on the beanbag chair.

Here's a great video from Dr. Becky Bailey that shows how students are encouraging other students.

As I reflect on this more and more, I realize that it also applies to me! I need to be assigning myself the traits I want to see more of. I need to be offering myself encouragement! Dr. Bailey states that encouraging oneself must happen before you're effective at encouraging others. It starts by telling yourself these five simple statements. (On page 124 in Easy to Love, Difficult to Disciple)

  • I will recognize and honor my own contributions to a better world.
  • I will allow myself to make mistakes and I will forgive myself. 
  • I will encourage myself to be successful. 
  • I will accept praise other people offer me because I know I am a valuable human being.
  • I will suspend my judgments long enough to allow my love to shine through.

I am on an encouragement mission! From now on I will offer myself and others around me encouragement by focusing on our positive traits and qualities. When I work with students I will focus on the behaviors and traits I want to see more of. I encourage you to try this too.

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