Parenting: Using Encouragement Over Praise

Written by: Maddie McGarrah, M.Ed.
Parenting: Using Encouragement Over Praise

When your child gets a good grade, figures out how to do something, or completes something we often respond with praise such as “Great job!”, “Excellent”, “Way to get an A on that!”.  This is defined as praise.  While praise can be boosting of children’s self-esteems in the moment, it doesn’t help them long-term.  What can be even more helpful is starting to use encouragement over praise.  

Encouragement is when our communication focuses on the process and details of what your child is doing rather than the outcome.  Using the same example of your child getting a good grade, an example of encouragement is “You worked so hard on that!”.  It is important to use encouragement when your child is in the middle of trying to do something and using statements such as “That is a really hard set to put together but you’re not giving up”, “I know you can figure this out”, “Look at all the detail and colors you put into your drawing of a flower!”.

The reason why we want to use encouragement more often than praise is that encouragement is internally motivating (It’s good because I think it’s good) whereas praise is externally motivating (It’s good because mom/dad says it’s good).  This can lead to a child’s efforts or their successes to be dependent on the praise that follows rather than being motivated themself to try and do something. 

By using encouragement more often than praise can it lead to your child working hard on things because they are wanting to and are not afraid to try again when they don’t get it the first time.  It builds confidence and persistent.  To help build your child’s self-esteem we must let them receive the message that they are capable even when they don’t get something the first time.  Thus, it is important to let your child struggle and give them encouragement with something you know that they can figure out.  Using encouragement shows your faith and acceptance in your child’s abilities and will boost their self-esteem in the long run!