The Family: A Proclamation to the World reminds us that each family member is a son or daughter of God, endowed with divine destiny and purpose. 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.
Written by Stephen F. Duncan, Professor, and Kristi McLane, Research Assistant, School of Family Life, Brigham Young University.
- Duncan, S. F. (1999). Building family strengths (MT 9405). Bozeman, MT: Montana State Extension Service.
- Duncan, S. F. (1994). The activity book: Activities for building family strengths (EB 128). Bozeman, MT: Montana State University Extension Service.
- Duncan, S. F. (2000). Practices for building marriage and family strengths. In D. C. Dollahite (Ed.), Strengthening our families: An in-depth look at the proclamation on the family (pp. 295-303). Salt Lake City: Deseret Book.