“Good job”, “Good girl/boy”, “I’m so proud of you”—those praise statements are often given to kids with the intent to build their self-esteem and encourage them, but our children really need more than a few praises given on repeat. Our children need specific encouragement to truly build their self-esteem and help them to become intrinsically motivated.
- Praise doesn’t increase self esteem, but encouragement does. Praise is often given as a way to boost a child’s self esteem, but studies show that phrases like “good job”, “you’re the best” don’t lead to higher self esteem. Encouragement is more specific (ie “You practiced and now you can do it without help.”) and allows your child to feel responsible for her actions which leads to higher self esteem.
- Encouragement creates persistence, determination, and self-motivation. It focuses on the effort made not on the outcome and is given as support along the way, encouraging a child to try their best. Whereas praise creates motivation by an external factor (ie. to please an adult or to get a reward).
- Praise creates a sense of entitlement and selfishness. Praise puts too much focus on the outcome of being the best at the expense of others. And it creates a child who is only motivated to do a task if they get something (ie praise or a reward) out of it. Encouragement teaches to look within for motivation.
- Praise fosters fear of failure. When a child is only praised for the outcome, they can become afraid to try something new for fear they might fail at it. When we instead are specific in our encouragement, we raise a child who knows being imperfect is acceptable and therefore they have the confidence to try something new.
- Praise causes a child to be externally motivated. The child is dependent on an external person or reward to make them feel good. Encouragement causes a child to be internally motivated. The child learns to look within for motivation.
In my parenting course, Family Elements, there is a lesson on praise vs encouragement where I will discuss this topic even more in depth, and give tips for effective encouragement.