CHEERLEADER: Praising, Valuing, and Supporting

We don’t think of ourselves as cheerleaders, but think about what cheerleaders do. They praise their team and team members. They inspire. They get people excited about what they’re doing, and motivate them to come back for more.

And they do this consistently, even when there’s no game or when the team is losing. It doesn’t mean that they’re always on, but that others are inspired by them in all types of situations. So it is with parenting. If you are positive and excited about what’s happening, your kids will be positive and excited about it as well.

Children learn what they live. If they live in a positive home where parents are enthusiastic about learning and applying information, then they will also be excited about learning and going to school. Praising your children for positive behaviors, for learning new skills, and for being dressed up for a special occasion, means that they learn to value themselves and others, developing positive self-esteem.

Self-esteem is critical for all of us, since it gives us enough confidence to try new things and not be put-off by failure, which we all experience. Learning cannot take place without sufficient self-esteem and confidence, and knowing how to build on previous skills.

On the other hand, when you don’t care about your school or your community, but continually make negative comments about teachers or your neighbors or the church minister, then your kids will also learn to not care and they are much more likely to misbehave in the grocery store, at church and in school.

When we are negative or indifferent, then our children also become negative and indifferent. Your children will model your behavior and your words, and sometimes this can happen in a most embarrassing place!

Cheerleaders cheer even when a team is losing. It’s important to praise your children for trying and trying again to overcome failure. Cheering our kids on is essential for learning and growing. If we are laughed at or punished when we try something and fail, we’re not likely to try it again.

At the same time, observe what Jason did wrong, or couldn’t do well in order to finish the task and then challenge him to try it again, maybe in a different way. Enlist David’s help. This creates (and also reinforces) a team effort, enhances David’s skill level, and helps Jason know that he can learn from his peers, not just adults. These are all very important skills and understandings for kids to develop.

Being a cheerleader also means modelling the behaviors you want in your children. We all yell at our kids and our spouses, but sincerely apologizing for it means that your kids learn two things, we all make mistakes, and there are ways to lessen the damage that’s done.

They learn about relationships, how to build them and keep them..something that not all adults know how to do! These skills are all part of learning how to get along in groups of all types as you ask questions, your kids learn that it’s OK to ask; as you do your chores, kids learn that everyone needs to pitch in for success; and as you try new things (food, games, woodworking, etc.), your kids learn to try new things as well.

So some specific things you can do as a CHEERLEADER include:

Teach them new words, showing them how to use a dictionary (online or in the library), and praising them when they find a word to teach you!

Praise efforts at trying and failing, as well as successful completion of chores, and learning new skills.

Consistently inspect and value their completed work.

Try new things with your kids, whether it’s learning how to play a new computer game, or riding safely on an ATV, or a new woodworking project.

Inspire your kids by being excited about your own world, watching a documentary on ocean life, or becoming active in a political campaign, or simply volunteering at school or the local food bank.

Encourage them to talk about their day and when a teacher sends a positive note home, let Jill tell you all about it, and praise her for work well done or for good conduct.

Show that you value learning by making sure Jason does his homework, and does it well; and by paying attention to getting a B-plus instead of the C-minus he got last week.

Use incentives where appropriate to encourage learning and good behavior. This can be a tough one, but we all do better if we get some chocolate when we’ve done the dishes.

Model good, positive behaviors if you want your kids to read, they must see you reading, or it’s clear that it’s not of value to you, and therefore not to them either. If you leave your chores undone, they’ll leave their chores undone, no matter how much you yell or plead with them. They will copy your table manners, and the way you talk to them and others.

Model positive attitudes. If you tear down their school and their teachers, they will act out in school, and refuse to learn. If you gossip about the grocery store manager, your pastor and your neighbors, they will spread the stories, and embellish them with stories of their own.

Inspire them to show respect and trust in themselves and in other people by modelling respect and trust. Praise them when they help an older person across the street, or stop the car at a crosswalk.

Teach them who they can trust, and how to treat strangers with respect and caution.