How to Encourage Your Child in 3 Steps

By Janis Meredith | Posted 6/19/2019

There’s no argument that encouragement is a strong motivator for young athletes. But sometimes finding the right words can be a challenge that drives you to give up and not say anything at all or say something which may seem to fall on deaf ears.

Although encouraging is not known as a skill, I’d like to suggest that there is a strategy that might make it more meaningful and effective for your child. Next time you sense that your child is struggling in youth sports and needs encouragement, think PASS: Pay attention, Ask, Seek Solutions.

Pay Attention

Parents should take listening a step further and focus on really paying attention. That means you move past the “headlines” your child may be blasting at you, good or bad: awards, sports success, good grades, lying, anger, a messy room, bad grades, cheating. These are the headlines parents usually stop at, reacting before they know the whole story. Behind every headline there is a deeper story and effective parenting demands that you take the time to read past the headlines that your kids’ actions shout at you each day.

This is time-consuming. It’s much easier to read and deal with the headlines than to get the whole story. Paying attention takes work; it demands that you hang out with your kids without lecturing and that you listen when they talk to either you, their friends, or their siblings.

Paying attention is parenting research and should be done daily.


Question-asking can be tricky. Too much and your kids may get annoyed; too little and they might feel unimportant. The balance is learning to ask simple, but powerful questions that encourage your child to talk and hopefully process out loud.

Ask open questions that begin with what, how, who, when, not questions that can be answered with a yes or no.

Avoid why questions that can come across as accusatory. For instance, instead of asking “Why did you do that?” you might say, “What were your thoughts as you did that?”

When you ask, be ready to listen without judgement or your child may be hesitant to answer questions in the future.

Seek Solutions

As you listen and ask, then listen some more, you may discern that your child is reaching their own conclusions about how to resolve their discouraging situation. If so, repeat and affirm that. If not, ask your child solution-seeking questions. It’s always better for them to come up with their own solutions because then they’ll be must more likely to follow through.

It’s true that sometimes the only encouragement needed is a simple pat on the back. But there will be other times when it requires more parental engagement and you must be ready to PASS.

Janis Meredith is a family coach who wants to help all parents raise champions. You can find out more at