Encouragement underscores relationships

I’m a fan of television’s Idol shows. Never mind the hype and all the endless commercials, I’m there every week — several nights a week — for the talent. And as a woman, I appreciate that the basic message to the contestants is ... encouragement.

It may not appear that way on the surface, but all the judges dish out a lot of encouragement to these young hopefuls.

Encouragement is the crux of how we best handle all our relationships, raise our children, manage in the workplace, even as we help our parents as they age.


Let’s look at one of the tasks we all have to face in time: Dealing with parents who need more help as they get older. One woman I know found her mother more and more distant at each subsequent visit. Inspiration hit when the radio started to play a song from her mother’s era, and she noticed her mom swaying to the music.

The woman asked her mother to dance. It became part of their visiting routine. The dancing encouraged her mother to relax, to do something she once loved and was familiar with, and it gave her some physical activity. The hour spent was the happiest for this elderly woman — a change from always talking about the past and her increasing health difficulties.

On the other end of the spectrum, it’s easy to see how much children thrive from even the slightest encouragement. Look at how a baby goes from sitting to crawling — if you sit with them, egging them on, even helping out with a little push, they topple into the crawl position — and then beam at you as though they’ve conquered Mount Everest. With encouragement and positive reinforcement, that same child will change position over and over until it becomes second nature. Without your smile and encouraging words, he or she may not know that what they are doing is a good thing, and they may discontinue the activity.

But back to Idol. Of course, the judges are rife with criticism, too. But it’s rare that they simply say a song and/or performance was awful without giving reasons why. And those reasons are meant to be constructive — a means of teaching the contestant how to better the next song and/or performance.

Think about it: Thousands of people audition, hundreds get the opportunity to take it to the next level, and then a few dozen get chosen to really compete. That opportunity — to get your name out there; and the exposure — for the public to see your face, and hear you sing — is a once in a lifetime chance. And everyone across the nation is encouraged to give it a go.

Watching Idol has reinforced the value of encouragement in all my relationships, because I see the potential for positive reactions.

And I’m hoping you get the message, too.


Lisi Tesher is a freelance writer and photographer living in Toronto with her husband and two children. She cares passionately about social injustices, children's health and education, and diversity.

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