by Ken Canfield, Ph.D.

Dad, just in case you need a positive idea for a goal or resolution for your fathering this year, here’s a great one: being a better encourager for your child.

A good friend named Chris told me a story years ago that provides a great example and a new word we can all use to help us remember the importance of this.

One summer, Chris took a trip with his daughter’s youth group to work on houses in a blighted rural area. Now, Chris is a bottom-line, results-oriented businessman. He was eager to get in there, swing a hammer, repair some walls and get as much done as possible in the time they were there.

But before they started, the project director from the mission organization gathered everyone for a meeting. He had attached an envelope for each team member to a bulletin board, and explained to the group that they would be giving “encouragrams” to one another for the week they were there. He explained that “encouragrams” are short messages of encouragement. Each day the first order of business was to write a short note to another team member.

This was just about the last thing Chris wanted to do. What does this have to do with building houses? he thought. About an hour later, he went to his envelope and found this message: “Thanks for coming along on the trip. I love you and am glad you’re here.” It was signed by his daughter, Erika.

As you can imagine, Chris was hooked. Over the next seven days, he wrote many notes to his daughter and the other youth on the trip, and he received many himself. It was an eye-opening reminder of the dynamic impact of encouraging words, and after that week he committed himself to using encouragrams regularly at home with his wife and children. It was a real change for him, but he knew it was a positive for him and his family.

Chris’s experiences are also backed up by research. One study showed that young children who have involved, encouraging fathers show an increase in curiosity, confidence, and problem-solving capacity. Other research shows encouragement leads to improved academic performance.

Encouragement is good for your kids, dad, and as Chris discovered, it’s good for you. And, it’s not difficult. Consider sending your children an “encouragram” today—on paper, with gently spoken words, or even on their bathroom mirror. Give them a blessing that’s clear and specific. Make a commitment to keep it up throughout the week, the month, and the year. I think you’ll be surprised at what a difference it can make.

Are you already doing something like this? Share your ideas with other dads at our Facebook page.

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