Raising Cheerleaders — 5 Minutes for Special Needs


I am about as introverted as people come. I am also chronically clumsy, and average looking at best. I was never cheerleader material. I wasn’t even interested. It never mattered until a couple of years ago when my husband and I were blessed to sit in on a behavior management class, which we desperately needed. The child was perpetually un-regulated, and it showed in every setting that she entered. Our first assignment in this class was to slather on the praise…not “good job” but truly effective, effusive, pre-emptive, affectionate praise. The directions were to find a moderately challenging situation (I think we picked toothbrushing) and see how different it would be if we praised our child for what they WERE doing instead of nagging them about what they weren’t doing. I wish I could say we saw an immediate change, but we did not…mostly because this Non-cheerleading Mom had a hard time figuring out how to sincerely and lavishly ladle out the praise when I was so frustrated. Thankfully we eventually learned more techniques and also received a lot of personal support that made it all click. I kid you not this saved our family big time.

Fast forward to the present…I am still not the best at telling my kids when I’m pleased with what they are doing. I am still no cheerleader. I’ve made the process my own with “high fives”, quiet thank yous, kisses and small rewards. I am also trying to spend one on one time with each child to let them know of my approval. What is remarkable is how much THEY have picked up the habit of praising and encouraging each other! It has become very noticeable this Summer – the first Summer that I have signed the twins up for their own cute little enrichment classes. My boy is taking a soccer class and my little girl is taking a dance class. The way our schedule works the two kids that are not “in class” still have to come a long and watch their sibling. At first I thought they would get too bored. I do ask them to bring a toy or something to do while they’re waiting, but the majority of the class time they are watching their sibling and yelling from the sidelines, encouraging them and smiling to see their sibling doing well. They aren’t just yelling “good job” either…they are giving specific praise: Great limbo dancing! Yay, he scored a goal! Good listening!

Today we were all doing a puzzle together – still a tough activity for the child – and it was lovely to hear them encouraging each other and making it a very positive activity.

I wish I could say it is always this way…we have our little squabbles of course, but my hope is that this practice of recognizing and praising the good in each other will be much more natural for my kids than it is for me.

Email Author    |    Website About Kimberly

Kimberly is the mother of three wonderful children: an eight-year-old who is somewhere on the autism spectrum, and twin four-year-olds who are just very busy little people. We live on routine with a side of novelty.

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1 Shelli Cook July 21, 2011 at 9:02 am

You sound like a great cheerleader! (and I was one for many years, so consider this your high-kick/woo! combo) Such simple things we can do for our kids and yet many times we forget because we are caught up or (like me, lost) in all the moments of spilled milk, sandal straps being ‘not right’… running late (again) and all the other things that grab up our minutes faster than we realize until yet another day is over. Thank you for reminding me that each day these wonderful, beautiful, successes need to be acknowledged. I think you have earned your pom poms 🙂

2 KDL July 23, 2011 at 10:59 am

Thanks, Shelli, and high-kick/woo! combo right back at ya! I will treasure my pom poms forever 🙂 The praise is so easy to slide over, but it makes such a huge difference when we remember. My kids remind me at this point, as they cheer each other on.

3 Val August 31, 2011 at 8:33 pm

I finally found this post again! I remembered seeing a story about not being a great cheerleader and have been searching for it. I’m really struggling with the same thing with my kids. My daughter has been having behavior problems and I was told I need to do the big-time praise thing but I am definitely no cheerleader either. Any tips for getting started in this? Thanks!

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