Be an Encourager!
The importance of encouragement
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2013)
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To consider the idea of encouragement and how it gives us courage.
Preparation and materials
- None required.
- Ask the children to close their eyes and use their imagination.
Ask them to imagine that they are at the starting line of a race on sports day. Explain that they can be in whatever race they like: running, egg-and-spoon, skipping and so on. They know that their family or friends are watching, so they definitely want to do their best.
Ask the children what thoughts are going through their head. Are they nervous, or are they confident?
On your marks, get set, GO!
Ask them to imagine the race. They are going as fast as they can, faster than they have ever gone before! As soon as they finish the race, they run over to where their supporters are waiting.
- Ask the children to imagine that they have won, and they are listening to what people are saying to them. Someone says something like, ‘Your time wasn’t as good as last year,’ or ‘Looks like you’ve failed to break the school record again.’
Ask the children, ‘How do you feel?’
Listen to a range of responses.
Now ask them to imagine that they were quite slow and came last in the race. Someone says, ‘Good effort! I know you don’t find running easy, so well done for trying.’
Pause to allow time for thought.
- Ask the children, ‘Who would feel more encouraged: the person who won or the person who came last?’
Listen to a range of responses.
The likelihood is that the person who was last in the race, but was told, ‘Well done for trying,’ will feel better than the one who was told, ‘Your time wasn’t good.’
- In today’s assembly, we are considering what the word ‘encouragement’ means.
The word is defined in the dictionary as ‘the action of giving someone support, confidence or hope’. Encouragement is the action of cheering someone up, uplifting them. By encouraging others, we are giving them courage. Marathon runners often say that it is the encouragement and cheers from the crowd that keep them going even when it’s hard.
- By giving encouragement, we help others to know that they are doing a good job and their efforts are appreciated. Think how crushed that winner of the race we imagined would feel. Instead of being congratulated for doing a great job and for winning, there was no encouragement, no uplifting words, just the expectation that he or she should have done better.
- Everyone thrives on praise. Unfortunately, too often, the first thing we say can be criticism.
Point out that sometimes, we also criticize ourselves. We get something wrong or we don’t do as well as we had hoped in a test or schoolwork, so we are negative about ourselves. Sometimes, we are more critical about ourselves than we are about other people. When we are given compliments, we end up shrugging them off and finding something negative to say about ourselves or our performance instead.
- Words of affirmation and encouragement are so important, both in the way that we speak to ourselves and in the way that we speak to others.
Time for reflection
Encourage the children to make a special effort today, tomorrow and for the next few weeks to talk kindly to themselves and believe the good things that others say about them.
Ask the children to look for the good in their family and friends, and to try to encourage people whenever they get the opportunity.
Thank you that you made us and that you are pleased with what you made.
Please help us to see the good in ourselves.
Please help us to see the good in other people.
Help us to encourage others and show them that we care.
‘Make me a channel of your peace’, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnY7t1N1s2U (3.29 minutes long)