revised and reprinted from Art Steps News, 2004
Six Verbal Ways to Encourage Your Aspiring Artist
What parents say to a child has more impact than anything said by a teacher or even a peer. The words you choose will affect your child’s confidence, mood, and whole approach to art, either encouraging, or discouraging a child who is working hard. These six tips are ideal for Art Steps families, but can apply to a wide range of situations. With the right kind of constructive encouragement, a young art student can thrive.
1. Keep compliments specific.
Try to avoid leaving your input to general comments like, “Looks great, honey!” When a child hears such a general comment, his or her thought process might be, “maybe it looks great, but I got a lot of help.” Or “She’s just saying that.” Instead, add why you think it looks great. Just one quick comment such as, “Your lines look very neat” “The dog’s paws look very three-dimensional” or “I like the smoothness of the shadows on the table.” can make all the difference. Incredibly, when specifics are discussed in this way, it becomes an instant self-esteem booster. A child is more likely to think, “She likes the smoothness of the shadows on the table, and I like the shading on the apple, too.”
2. Be careful of becoming dismissive of your child’s work.
Parents of Art Steps students can tend to get used to seeing amazing art coming home every few weeks. Making realistic art is hard work! Celebrate with your child!
3. Be realistic in your comments.
Remember that this is practice work. Your child will fail and succeed in little and big ways in his or her journey toward mastery, and not every picture he or she brings home is going to be his or her favorite. Again, keeping those comments specific really can help.
4. Don’t criticize.
If you think the quality of the work is not quite up to par, there may be good reasons. Instead, ask your child about how he or she is enjoying class. It is normal to go through a little slump every once in a while.
5. Provide guidance through rough spots.
If you child comes home frustrated or unhappy with a picture, listen to why, and try to take his or her concerns seriously. Then remind him or her or all the successes so far. Even take out your child’s portfolio of previous work to keep things in perspective. Help your child keep faith that with their best effort, after a couple of pictures he or she will feel that sense of pride and progress again. Take the first opportunity to let the teacher know, as well, so that she can help guide your child in the most constructive direction.
6. Keep in close contact with your child’s instructor on a regular basis.
Although teachers may seem busy sometimes, they are always happy to discuss a student’s work, progress, and upcoming projects before and after class. Teachers can provide insight into the little – and big – lessons and challenges your child is facing. You will know what to discuss with your child when you know details about where he or she is aiming.
Keep up those positive comments and actions, and instruction at Art Steps, and in all kinds of classes can work even better than ever. With plenty of encouragement, children can do anything!