Praise Versus Encouragement

Self-esteem as defined in Webster’s Dictionary is “a confidence and satisfaction in oneself.”

Many children today grow up hearing words like “awesome,” “good job” and “you’re the best!” They are given trophies and awards for participation and even coming in last place. Do these actions and words actually build confidence and satisfaction when either the effort or result was actually mediocre or, worse, poor? Do children really gain self-esteem from over-used praise? We may be creating a generation of approval junkies, people who need to turn to others for validation and approval.

Now look at the word encouragement. It comes from Old French and means “to make strong, hearten.” In our English dictionary it means “to inspire with courage.” Is that not what we want for our children, to be inspired with courage? So the question then becomes how do we do that? How do we encourage a child? What does that look like? Encouragement can mean showing faith in a person, helping them determine their value, inviting contribution and initiative.

According to Dr. Carol Dweck, author of the book, “Mindset,” research shows praising intelligence or talent harms both motivation and performance. However when we focus on the effort, we develop a deeper sense of self-awareness and build confidence. So how do we do this? When a child successfully learns to tie his laces, instead of saying “Wow, you are amazing! You are so smart!,” try this, “Learning to tie laces takes time and persistence. Looks like your practice paid off!“

Children feel encouraged when they do things they are capable of doing for themselves and contribute to others. When they hear things like, “I have faith you can figure this out for yourself,” or even a simple “Thank you for setting the table.”

Another reason for encouragement is it helps children develop a stronger sense of self-awareness. They decide for themselves they are capable. Dr. Dweck’s research also showed children who were told that they were smart or talented later tended to either give up or choose easier tasks, while children who were told that they work hard or were persistent chose more challenging tasks.

Think about your long term parenting goal of nurturing self-esteem and consider using more words of encouragement versus generic praise statements.

Article provided by Southwest Montessori Academy,

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