Should we be praising kids?

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We all praise our children when they do well. But by over-praising, are we doing them more harm than good? Find out the differences between 'praising' and 'encouraging' and what works better for children. Keep reading!

Whenever your child cleans up his room or finishes his food, you praise him, “Good job!” You might think that praising is an effective tool to build self-esteem in your child.

However, recent studies show that praising kids can be somewhat counter-productive. This is because children learn to “perform” for what they think others expect of them, rather than for their own satisfaction.

praise or encourage our children

Praise or encourage our children…what’s better?

Is praising a double-edged sword?

The risk with continuous praising or over-praising is that children begin to expect constant acknowledgement, and may get alarmed when they don’t get it. As a result, they come to rely on external praise rather than develop internal motivation or confidence in their emerging abilities. They no longer do things because they should or they can, instead do them to gain adult’s recognition.

In order to obtain praises from adults, children tend to avoid anything they can’t or won’t get ‘right’. This is not so desirable as children learn through discovery and exploration of which trial and error and risk-taking are critical elements.

When they only define their behaviour as ‘good’ when they get good grades, through winning, or anytime they receive praise, they may feel less competent or worthy when these things are absent in the real world.

Encouragement vs praise

Although praising our kids has become second nature to most of us, learning to encourage children rather than just praise is the better way forward. Encouragement forms bonds, understanding and acceptance that is needed for healthy and happy children.

Children who receive encouragement are also proven to be more resilient, self-confident and independent. Through encouragement, they tend to focus on their efforts, and believe they can change their circumstances through determination or learning, hence they are not as shaken by adversity.

praise or encourage our children

Should we praise or encourage our children?

More on the next page…

praise or encourage our children

Encouraging our kids teaches them how to keep trying and not give up

So do we praise or encourage our children?

We should certainly not stop praising our children. But when we do praise them, it should be genuine: praise that is specific (i.e. “That was very kind of you to clean up your toys without being reminded”) rather than generic (i.e. “You are wonderful”). Praise should be focused on behavior (i.e. “You came up with a very creative solution”) rather than the person (i.e. “You are so smart”).

This is also known as  “descriptive recognition,” giving a more precise description of what you wish to encourage, rather than merely praising.

One of the main differences between praise and encouragement is that praise often comes paired with a judgment or evaluation, such as “best” or “good”. Encouragement, on the other hand, allows children to become self-motivated, and focused on following their own interests.

praise or encourage our children

Knowing the differences between ‘praise’ and ‘encouragement’ will help you motivate your child

Here are some of the main differences between praise and encouragement:

  • Praise builds false self-esteem (i.e. “I am so smart. I can do anything”) but Encouragement builds determination and confidence (i.e. “I have the ability to do many things if I work hard”).
  • Encouragement promotes perseverance rather than giving up if a child doesn’t initially achieve the success he expected.
  • Praise emphasizes results or outcome but encouragement acknowledges the child’s effort, progress, and improvement.
  • Praise places emphasis on the global evaluation of the person (“You are better than others.”) but encouragement places emphasis on specific contributions (”You have helped in this way.”)

So the next time you wish to compliment your child for a job well done, think of how you could offer words of encouragement instead. Your child will definitely feel proud of himself, and more motivated to do better the next time.

Do you praise, or do you encourage your child/ren? Let us know what works for you and why by leaving a comment.

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Written by

samanthabek