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Encouragement vs. Praise

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In a society that seems strongly supportive of rewards and praise, it is important to remember the long term effects of encouragement which takes the form of self-confidence and self-reliance.    To inspire with courage, to spur on, stimulate are the definitions of encouragement.   Praise is when you express a favorable judgement of; to glorify, especially by attribution of perfection; or an expression of approval.

When speaking words of encouragement you are specifying what you see and hear, recognizing effort or improvement and focusing on the task, not the person doing the task.  Instead of “I am proud of you for getting a good grade” you would say, “that grade reflects your hard work”.

Encouragement invites people to change for themselves versus changing for others, as well as, supporting a feeling of worth without other’s approval.

When children are often looking for approval you may want to examine how you communicate with them.  Do you often say “good job” versus encouraging the child to evaluate their efforts or making nonjudgmental statements.  Instead of saying “how do YOU feel about your success?” you might be saying “here’s how I feel about your success.”

If you would like to read more information about encouragement versus praise, I suggest reading Alfie Kohn.   Alfie Kohn is a leading figure in progressive education who writes about parenting and child development.   He gives you Five [important] Reasons to stop saying “Good Job!”

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