“If we treat a person as he ought to be,” Ensign, July 1971, 68
“If you treat a man as he ought to be,” said Goethe, “he will become what he ought to be.” What is true of a man is equally or more true of a child. In an atmosphere of encouragement and confidence much more is accomplished than in an atmosphere of criticism. Countless children tragically have become much less than they could have become because they have been discouraged, made to feel unimportant, unpromising, unappreciated. A performer rises to the expectation of the audience. Unheard or unappreciated performances are not likely to be the best. We tend to try to become what others give us reason to feel we should and can become. President David O. McKay used to cite the words of a faithful wife standing by and saying, “You can; you must; you will.” An understanding and encouraging wife, a kind and encouraging husband, can make the difference between unhappiness at work and at home or a feeling of happy service and success. It is so with children, as parents and teachers patiently encourage, and care, and convince them they can—and so they often do. More trust, more love, more effort, more output come by telling them how they can improve rather than how poorly they perform. And one tragic way to have a child—or anyone—feel that he is a failure is to expect nothing of him, or fail to give him an awareness of what he can become. In many other ways the love and loyalty of family play a vitally important part. Many a young person has resisted temptation because he knew what his parents and family expected of him and because he knew if he disappointed them, the hurt would be deep in their hearts. Such family love and loyalty have proved to be the safety and salvation of countless young people—letting them know that their loved ones believe in them. Overall, the world will be better if we treat people as if they are or could be what they ought to be—and give them confidence and encouragement. If we treat a person as he ought to be, he will tend to become what he ought to be.