“Encouragement or Praise – which is better?” is the title of my latest post on Parentous.
I was scheduled to publish a post yesterday. I was sorting through ideas in my mind on May 26 when the phone rang. It was Vidur’s classmate calling to tell him that their 10th-grade exam results were out! We stumbled over each other, rushing to the computer to log in to see how Vidur had fared. Now, Grade 10 is a major milestone.
While we really had no doubt as far as performance was concerned, Vidur was a bit anxious because he was sick during the exams. We were excited to see that he had scored Grade A1 in all the subjects and a CGPA of 10 out of 10. Great going, indeed!
Of course, I burst into tears and Vidur hugged me, telling me that it was our encouragement that always helped him. What a beautiful thing to say! I also realized in my mind, that I was quick to encourage – and slightly slower when it came to praising.
And that is how the topic for my parenting post came about.
As it happened, even as we reveled in the good news, the doorbell rang. Guests. So – naturally it had to be party time. Sury quickly went and got sweets and we – all 12 of us – comprising of three generations – settled down to a healthy debate about which was better.
One of the grandparents calmly said that encouragement was more important than actual praise. While some disagreed and argued actively, I found myself thinking that she had a point. After all, unless we encourage, how will a child reach the point where he/she is eligible for praise?
Isn’t the journey a learning experience that needs encouragement to arrive at the destination – an achievement worth praising?
And so the conversation went on and on. As I watched and thought back, my own Grandmother’s words ringing in my ears about encouraging more and praising less, I wondered – did we praise too much? Too little? More important – did we encourage enough?
I was relieved to find that we did. Praise is great, but too much can be a problem as the child could get used to it to the point where it doesn’t matter. While praise is a great way to help children develop self-esteem, constant praise results in the child expecting it for every little thing. Then what is the point?
I was glad to realize that while we encouraged our son, we were honest about our feelings, allowing understanding, appreciation, and respect to develop between us. While we did make parenting mistakes (who doesn’t!), I think we were fast learners when we saw the outcome of our follies. We would not dream of saying something was okay when it wasn’t.
Today, when I think that the continuous encouragement has turned him into a responsible individual who is self-motivated, I feel blessed.
So what did we learn?
- Encouragement is about the journey and praise is about the destination
- Mistakes are a natural part of the learning process. It is important to acknowledge the effort, allowing mistakes in the learning process without being obsessed with the outcome. Encouraging them to do better next time makes the process enjoyable
- When we encourage, we’re focusing on effort, participation, and delight in the process even as the child builds her confidence levels.
- Honest feedback expressed in a positive way is a part of encouragement
- It takes skill to encourage and thankfully, it is a skill that can be developed
- Encouragement must be ongoing in order to help children reach their goals successfully
- It is important to allow children to experience a certain amount of worry yet maintain their belief in themselves
- Encouragement is about recognizing children for what they are rather than what they are expected to be
Along the way, we learned to encourage:
- Through empathy – acknowledging our son’s anxieties about coping with something
- By having faith in him
- By recognizing the hard work as he grapples with something, even if he didn’t reach the desired outcome
- By noticing improvement in the things that challenged him, ensuring that expectations were realistic
- By seeing the positive side rather than harping on faults
- By teaching the value of discipline
- With patience. Big doses.
- By celebrating his plus points
- Complimenting when due
Oh yes. We do praise. Except we’ve learned to control ourselves from overdoing it. We prefer to encourage because that is what compassionate parenting is all about. Because that propels him forward with a good attitude, self-confidence, and most of all, self-esteem.
So, encouragement or praise?
By definition, praise is an “expression of approval, commendation, or admiration.” while encouragement is to “inspire with hope, courage, or confidence”.
When you want children to develop a healthy self esteem , celebrate and acknowledge their efforts, but do not praise them . Dr Louise Porter.
When it is a question of encouragement or praise – encouragement is the answer, most of the time. My logic for this is: encouragement is about the journey and praise is about the destination. Continuous encouragement (through the process) enables a child to achieve the desired outcome – which then deserves praise, depending on what it is. Point is, whether we praise or not, encouragement is a non-negotiable – a must-do!.
I believe in positive parenting and one of the things I’ve realized is: parenting is a life-long learning process. Sometimes a tough situation has the solution hidden in it, if only we’d see the big picture. Sometimes it is so easy to miss the forest as we focus on the trees! I consider myself very blessed to enjoy a wonderful relationship with my son.
Children need encouragement like plants need water
Encouragement, not praise helps a child builds self-esteem. And self-esteem grows only when a child receives honest feedback that lets her see her capabilities in their true light, enabling her set realistic goals; not when we hear the words “great job!” Only encouragement allows the child to see this point of view. Some ways to do this are:
- Be specific rather than general while giving feedback. Highlight the plus points.
- Focus on the process, not the outcome.
- Be honest. Children know when you are paying lip service.
- Don’t compare with others
- If offering critique, do it in private
- Acknowledge both successes AND failures – both are equally important
A word of encouragement during failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success
What do you think is more important – encouragement or praise? Why?
Would love to hear your views.