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Praise vs. Encouragement

02.02.09

There is a big difference between Praising children and Encouraging children. The goal is to move away from praise, and towards encouragement.

Stop the Praise Craze!

Praise is “Good Job!” and “Terrific!” and “That’s cool!” Praise is only good for children who have high self-esteem, and for those who don’t really need it. Praise is hollow, empty. It is vague and unspecific. It makes children with less than ideal self-esteem cringe. It sounds phony to them. After praise, some children think, “Yeah, right, lady. What do you want from me now?” Many children and adults feel manipulated by praise.

Praise is also addicting – children seem to need it more and more, especially if their inner self-talk is negative. It is an external validation, and one that is not very useful for most children.

Encouragement however, is helpful.

Encouragement spells out what the adult noticed. “I noticed you colored this part blue, and that part green,” goes a LOT farther than “Good Job.” It is specific. Children think to themselves, “Yep, I did that part blue, and that part green. She must really like it.” Encouragement is good for children who may have medium to low self-esteem. It is specific and honest. It helps children to develop their own positive self-talk. It helps a child to create their own internal validation, and is very useful for most children.

Instead of praise, like, “Yay Billy!” why not use encouragement: “Billy, I noticed you put on your boots by yourself.” It will build the relationship between you and the child, because it is more honest and specific. Children learn to trust that you mean what you say, and say what you mean.

parenting resources

helpful websites

  • Love and Logic
    Bestselling author Jim Fay, founder of the "Love and Logic" process.
  • Focus on The Family
    Provides parenting advice and other family issues from a Christian perspective. Founded by Dr. James Dobson.
  • TroubledWith: Parenting Children
    Resources dealing with various common childhood issues and what a parent can do.