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“You Rock!”...and the importance of positive encouragement we all need to hear… MORE OFTEN

The other day, I stumbled on article that I wrote a few years back for a newsletter. And it is ironic because apparently, I never learn...

I recently resigned from my job. After the incredible stress that piled on me in 2020, I could barely stand it. Between COVID-19, virtual learning, a spinal cord injury and transitioning back to life after, I felt more strained than I ever thought possible. But I love being an OT and an advocate, I love my students, I love my family, so I pushed on. But at what cost? I bet I am like you. The stress that we bear on an average day can be unimaginable. Do we sleep enough? Do we eat enough of the right foods? Do we exercise? How do we take care of ourselves (mentally and physically) when we must take care of everything else? I talk the talk, but do I walk the walk? Apparently, I am still working on that!

But back in 2018 I wrote " I am going to be honest; I sleep 5 hours a night. I made another New Year’s resolution that this year would be different, I would get more sleep… I would simplify my life… I would exercise every day when I got home from work… I would take time for me…. OK but I’m going to be real, I have kids that are very busy (sports meets, dance competitions, active social lives’) and I am the chauffeur that needs to pay for it all. It happens every day. I have NO time for anything extra, and the stress does keep piling up. Does this sound like you too? So, what keeps us going at the rate we do? What motivates us to get out of bed and do it every day even when life if challenging? " This year will be different- for us both.

SO, What Motivates Us? Why are {we} still doing the same thing year after year?

Motivation is our reason for doing. Interestingly enough- Most babies are really really motivated. Most naturally come screaming into this world as if they own the

place, motivated to be heard. Then they become motivated to be held... motivated to be fed... they scream for everything they want, until eventually babies understand that their actions have an effect on the people around them and they begin to have a awareness of mastery over their own actions- that is why once a baby starts to crawl, often they have a forward trajectory to keep moving… more and more and more. Our volition (Self-motivation) becomes the main drive for learning. If I am not self-directed, I won’t do it. AT ALL.

It’s funny when I am working in Early Intervention (almost every child I see), I receive a paperwork packet in which there is a personal goal written that states something to the effect of… “Jimmy will demonstrate improved att

ention during a non-preferred task for 5 minutes during play.” OK so this is an oxymoron- if it’s play, it should be preferred, and self-directed… but there are kiddos that really need a little outside motivation to keep them on-task. Me too.

This happens to continue for our ENTIRE lifespan- what’s your motivator that keeps you getting out of bed every day. Well, it could be positive reinforcement, right? Our paycheck is positive reinforcement; but we get out of bed when we don't feel like it to go to work don’t, we? It may be “Work” = “pay”. Or it might actually be something a little deeper too.... We all naturally crave positive feedback. I want to hear "I am valuable, and I am doing a good job". We all do.

A few years ago, I read an article that I kept because it was so interesting. Stanford did a study (if you ever have some spare time, you can read it here-

“Praising effort, not talent, leads to greater motivation and more positive attitudes toward challenges” …. “But it has to be sincere”.

Some children don’t rely on their own motivation but those around them. Some NEED and become dependent on others motivating them and will continuously look to find it.

Praise can be effective since it supports completing the activity, i.e. “You are really trying hard at finishing that…”. “Wow, I am so proud at you for ……..” both focus on the sense of self- You are good, you work hard… (It doesn't work for everyone- if your kiddo has a hard time socially connecting or has poor communication skills, it might not work as easy as this but...) At 3-5 years old, many kiddos are directing a lot of their own learning, they are capable of problem solving and are working through problems.

Motivation through Praise….

Hearing Positive Praise and It’s Exponential benefits

SO Why Do We NEED Praise? Guess what, whether you want to admit it or not we NEED to hear it. Have you ever heard the phrase "People will work harder if you praise them?" Valued people feel more purpose in their work (whether you are 5 or 55... It's true). If you don't feel value or valued in your work, you will get burnt out. It’s really no secret that being praised makes you feel good. When someone compliments you, you actually have a physical reaction that happens in your body. We actually release dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that controls the reward center of your brain (it actually makes us feel BETTER. But dopamine also is a contributor to problem solving skills and critical thinking. So as a worker, it helps YOU to be more productive and engaged.

Context and content of praise are as important as the praise itself.

What Is Positive Praise and Attention?

Praise is an essential part of teaching your child. Praise not only tells your kiddo that you approve, but it also confirms your expectations! Praise is a parent's motivating tool for their kids- because it shows that effort leads to a goal. From a therapist's perspective:

-Making positive comments about behavior and communication (reinforcing vocalizing, nonverbal interactions, and something important). **Remember that negative comments such as “No” or “Don’t” keep children from wanting to communicate and tend to limit.

-Encouraging children in what they are doing, such as sharing, playing nicely with other children, following directions, and cooperating with others.

Since praise is free, and it has such a profound effect on the receiver, let’s be sure to extend positive praise and attention to all of our kiddies!

As a therapist I'm gonna throw this in...

Here's some Resources on this Topic!

Do you need a positive support system to help continue the momentum of good behaviors in the home or for school? This link has free printable behavior charts from the website Free Printable Behavior Charts-

Praise encourages feelings of self-worth! How about sharing some positive encouragement of self- love/ positive self-concept…? Here’s a link from Kids Happy Apps- for great printable affirmation cards for your older kiddies- You could make your own for our younger kiddos… (in your spare time).

There is neuroimaging studies that state that positive self-affirmations generate activity in the reward centers of the brain; which “act as an emotional buffer”; not only reduces pain but helps to maintain emotional balance. So, if you are stressed, it might be worth trying…

OK back to talking the talk... and walking the walk. When we are burnt out sometimes it becomes hard to see how valuable we are to those around us. And sometimes we need to hear positive praise more than we do. Last year, when we were alone and lonely (two very different things by the way) we forgot (I forgot) how valuable we are- maybe because we didn't hear it enough. You need to surround yourself with your tribe, people who will tell you how important, valuable and brilliant you are. So, this is me telling you...

“You really do rock” and “you are important to the lives you impact on a daily basis”. "You are important to your son, your daughter, your husband, your wife, YOURSELF". So, take care of your personal needs, not just for those around you, because you are needed.

I'm so thankful for the gifts I have been given; my supportive husband, my children, my faith, and all the children and their families I am a part of. 2020 was a trial by fire, but 2021 was a reminder that with positive encouragement from those around you, you can achieve anything. Surround yourself with those who encourage you and remind you of your value, because you will flourish- you have so much to give (AND don't forget to get some sleep, eat right and exercise too).

If you need a little motivation, encouragement or someone to vent to, remember that Educate About Autism is a part of your tribe. We want to surround you with the positive support you need and deserve. You really do deserve it.

Blessings my friends,

Jen Blankley

Please contact me with your questions or comments at


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