Praise versus Encouragement May 09 2022
Author : Allison Cress
UGA Family and Consumer Sciences Intern
Human Development & Family Sciences Major
While praise often happens naturally as parents want to build up their children, encouragement can be a much more effective method for building self-confidence as opposed to praise.
What’s the difference between praise and encouragement?
Praise often recognizes an outcome, achievement, or ranking while encouragement focuses more on the effort put in, the person, and the internal aspects.
An example of praise is: “Great job! You scored the winning point for your team!”
An example of encouragement is: “Wow! You worked so hard both inside and outside of practice this week to prepare for your big game! How does it feel to know that all of your hard work paid off?”
Encouragement is showing interest in the person and the process. Also, asking how they feel reaffirms their own internal feelings and generates self-confidence.
Praise can wire children to seek an outcome, approval, and/or validation from people around them rather than focusing on their own efforts and the process of achieving their goals.
Don’t get me wrong, some traditional praise will happen! “Good job!” is essentially unavoidable and wired in all of us.
Encouragement can teach children to focus on efforts rather than accomplishments and outcomes. This is an important life lesson for numerous reasons.
- You can always control your own efforts, but not outcomes. Sometimes you try your absolute hardest and still come up short. You win some and lose some.
- In terms of accomplishments, someone will always be ahead of you, and finding validation in outdoing others will always leave you feeling empty because you can always strive to achieve more.
- Focusing too much on an achievement or outcome can hold you back in a sense. When you focus on your potential and efforts, you can go above and beyond what you originally imagined and even thought you were capable of.
One of my favorite examples of praise vs. encouragement comes from clinical psychologist and mom of three, Dr. Becky Kennedy. On her weekly podcast Dr. Becky exemplifies it perfectly; When a child says, “look what I made” instead of replying “that’s awesome!” try asking, “Wow, How’d you think to make that?”
She goes on to explain that expressing interest in the process rather than the product builds a child’s independence and self-confidence.
Dr. Becky has a stellar podcast named "Good Inside" and the episode mentioned above is titled “Does Praise Have Unintended Consequences”
She chats with parents about the topic and offers strategies to build stable, long-lasting confidence.
Building up children’s internal feelings about themselves makes praise the icing on the cake to an accomplishment, but not what is responsible for the child’s mental health and stability.
One parent commented that they don’t want their kids to think that they don’t recognize the good that they do, but they also don’t want to shower them with praise. Dr. Becky answered that we don’t need to fill our kids with praise to make them feel good about themselves. We should train them to look for the good feeling inside of themselves rather than looking out for others’ reactions. When parents notice inside things, they train a child to focus on what’s on the inside instead of being oriented toward their outcome.
Dr. Becky explains that some children will directly ask for praise with questions like “What do you think of my picture?” Dr. Becky says to answer like this, “Sweetie, that is your drawing. You are the only one who can know what you like.” A child can become frustrated with this. However, it is good to turn it back over to them by asking how they like their drawing and how they chose to use those colors.
Overall, it is impossible to cut praise out of our dialogue completely! It can be so helpful to a child to build up their internal confidence while they are young. If children are wired to seek acceptance from others, they will never truly be fulfilled. Remember to encourage your children to try their hardest and be the best versions of themselves. The reward for those things is unmatched!
Check out the podcast for yourself below and let us know your thoughts!