Saturday, June 1, 2013

The Power of Words of Encouragement

It is often said we are slow to give words of praise and encouragement but quick to criticize. A Catholic diocesan bulletin tells the story of a child, his teachers and his mother, and how words of encouragement can nullify words of criticism. It started in kindergarten when the mother of the child was told by the teacher that her son 's behavior was erratic; he couldn't remain seated for three minutes, she said. On the way home, the mother told her son the teacher had praised him, from not being able to sit quietly for a minute to now being able to sit for three minutes. That evening, the boy, who usually needed to be prodded to eat, had two bowls of rice.

Time passed, and he entered grammar school. His teacher told the mother his marks were extremely poor, and he should be examined to uncover the problem. The mother, despite being upset by the remarks of the teacher, that evening told her son that the teacher had said he had a good mind, and if he studied hard he would be able to be the 21st in the class. Hearing these words, the boy's face lit up and he began walking around like a grownup.

When he graduated from middle school, the mother was told that with his marks he would find it difficult to enter a good college. The mother again told the boy that his teacher had said he has a good mind and with some effort, he would be able to enter a first class college, which he did, and graduated with honors.

When he received word of acceptance at college, he grasped his mother's hands and overcome with emotion, thanked her for her encouragement and love during those difficult early years. It was all your doing, he said, you made me what I am today.

The story clearly shows what can be achieved in turning around what could have been a difficult school experience for a child, if a mother's words of encouragement had not trumped the words of criticism coming from her son's many teachers. More than gifts, the bulletin stresses, greater results can be achieved by giving encouraging words.

And they are so easy to give, the bulletin points out, and we can always find a reason for giving this gift. A Korean proverb says we can repay a great debt with words of praise. One person has even recommended that we write down in a notebook these words of encouragement whenever we have been praised. When read again, they often have the ability to bring out the best in us.

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