The Difference Between Praise and Encouragement

Growing up, we are often unconsciously taught to believe that it’s about what we do and how well we do it that allows us to be accepted or loved. While praising our child may seem like a good thing, it can have opposite effects. The principle of unconditional love is one we can teach our children early on by understanding the difference between praise and encouragement.

Some Points on Praise

  • Praise is an expression of approval or admiration for someone or something. It will be based on what you think of them and not of who they are. This is because praise is performance-based.
  • How can we evaluate if we’re praising (and not encouraging) a child? Ask yourself if your compliments are evaluative or judgmental. What that means is that the compliment comes from a result that can be measured, such as making first place or scoring the most points. Compliments that count as praise are considered judgmental if they were given out of conditions.
  • The results that come from praise might immediately feel good to the child when they receive it. However, the long-term effects jeopardize the child’s ability to develop their own internal compass. Without even realizing it, we may be using praise to manipulate our child’s behavior. They will learn to behave on certain conditions and we will hinder their ability to learn self-reliance, self-direction, and self-control.

Some Points on Encouragement

  • Encouragement is the act of giving support, confidence, and hope. When a child believes they have to perform and they fail, they lose confidence. Encouragement offers the opposite where the child can learn to believe in themselves and not evaluate their worth based on whether they succeed or fail.
  • You can help to encourage your child by giving positive feedback. You’ll also want to have a non-judgmental tone when you speak to your child. Showing respect to your child inspires confidence early on. Another key difference between praise and encouragement is that it is given at any time and sometimes for no reason at all. It’s freely given as a way to build your child up.
  • The benefits that encouragement can give to your child include an inner direction that allows them to become self-motivated, faithful to themselves, and focused on following their own interests. Instead of being fearful to try new things, they will have the confidence to pursue and learn.

We can help our children understand that they are loved for who they are and not for what they do. All it takes is an understanding of the difference between encouragement and praise and to practice it in the language we use.

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