Kids Behavior: Praise VS Encouragment

JTA Wellness is ecstatic to introduce our newest team member, Katie Gaebel, Child Behavioral Specialist.


Parenting Tip #1: Praise vs Encouragement

There are many things in the world today that can interfere with your child developing positive self-esteem- everything from the media to well-meaning friends and loved ones can make a significant impact.  However, parents are the most influential in a young child’s life.  Through proper encouragement, you have the power make the world of difference to them.

There is a great distinction between encouraging our children and praising them.  It is very important that parents understand the difference.  When parents encourage their children, they use words that recognize effort and /or improvement.  Encouragement is one of the simplest ways to instill a sense of self-confidence and pride for your children.  Praise, on the other hand, lacks specificity and, indeed, can be the verbal equivalent of an on-off switch—the child’s actions are either “good” or “bad”.

Examples of praise vs encouragement:

Praise: Parent – “You are such a good helper!” Hearing this, the child might think, “What did I do to be a good helper?”  Or, “What if I am not a good helper; does that mean I am bad?”

Encouragement: “You are such a good helper, thank you for picking up your toys”  In hearing the latter, the child knows that when he/she picks up toys they have done a positive thing and will be more likely pick up toys again to get positive feedback.

Or consider a more nuanced exchange…

Praise: Child – “Do you like my dress?”  Parent –  ”Yes, it is very pretty”

Encouragement:  Child – “Do you like my dress?”  Parent: – “Yes, and I see that you enjoy bright colors….how fun!”

In the encouraging statement, the parent is letting the child know that he/she took the time to notice the child and what the child is wearing.  The parent is not judging the decision- yes or no- but genuinely noticing!

In sum, praise is nonspecific, and is often given with very little thought.  Encouragement requires a parent to listen and/or observe a child’s behavior.  Praise is earned when an immediate goal has been met.  Encouragement, on the other hand, allows a parent to notice a child’s effort and growth of skills while motivating the child to continue to improve upon the skills.

In a world full of demeaning and self-deprecating influences, proper encouragement can make a world of difference for your child!  When speaking with your child, try to be more expansive in your praise and turn it into an encouraging statement- a statement that lets the child know you notice them and their effort.

Written by Katie Gaebel, Child Behavioral Specialist, JTA Wellness


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