Encouragment and praise

Reading an interesting parenting book at the mo’, aptly titled “Children: the challenge” (too right!). It was written by Rudolf Dreikurs in 1964, but seriously is more modern and ‘right on’ than many of the simplified (yet oh so lucrative…) behaviorist tendencies of today.

One thing I’m ruminating on right now is the difference he draws between encouragement and praise. There has been quite a lot of writing recently about how not to praise children too much, lest they become praise ‘junkies’ or ‘addicted to praise’ or, even worse, won’t do anything unless praised/rewarded. My response to this has been that limiting praise in this way is like the icing on the cake of perfect parenting in a perfect environment. In other words most kids in this world don’t get enough positive feedback, so it’s a bit irresponsible to suggest limiting it even more. Children need love, praise, positive feedback and encouragement in abundance to feel worthy and secure.

Now I’ve read this book, it has clarified my stance a bit. Rather then praise, what we want to aim for is encouragement, and plenty of it.

Praise: Well done! Brilliant! You are amazing/fantastic/the bees knees etc. (I do this all the time…)

encouragement: You did it! You must feel proud of yourself! I see a tidy room, how does that feel?! You got all A’s, I’m glad you enjoy learning so much.

encouragement is literally ‘giving courage’, so not over protecting a child to the point that they feel they cannot do things. Let a baby try and try and try again to scramble up the step, without helping (you did it!). Letting the small child pour that milk even if it spills – the sense of satisfaction of doing it for herself outweighs the wastage of a bit of milk (you poured the milk all by yourself!), with practice she sill get it right but not if discouraged the whole time. Trusting that older child to go to the shops alone. Giving kids the thumbs up for things they may not be able to do yet and not spoiling it with a ‘be careful’ (suggesting they will fail). Giving courage, having courage in them, having faith in them and transmitting it. You can do it. En-couragement.

I still think that this technique is a bit ‘parenting PhD’, it’s like there are so many other things to be worrying about, can we really worry about the way we word positive feedback to our kids…yawn. I think there’s no harm in bigging up your kids from time to time, showing them with words and hugs that they are the best things since sliced bread.

But I like the idea of encouragment…giving them courage, strength and skills to feel “I can do it”! Bit of both scenario, methinks.




Encouragment and praise

10 thoughts on “Encouragment and praise

  1. Fabulous post. I am due to do a post about choosing our words carefully and would love to link this to it if you don’t mind? I agree that it is hard to always be thinking about what you are saying and how you are saying it but it is so important however old we are.


  2. I totally agree! We have been having lots of issues with hair pulling here (post to come on that this week) but one thing I’ve found to work is encouraging my son before we go into a gathering and then praising him afterward. And he knows what i am talking about. I say “You were such a good boy today Saxon” and he says “No hair” and shakes his head, then “No hats” and shakes his head (as he started pulling hats off instead of pulling hair initially so we had to clarify). He is not even 2 yet and he gets this. I am so proud of him and I tell him that in the post event praise. But I think the combo of encouragement and praise actually works for us. It’s such a learning curve this parenting thing!


    1. Sounds really positive. hair pulling is something I’ve not heard or had contact with (banging, yes, biting, yes…!). I guesse like all these behaviours, trying not to give it energy and attention (hence they are not being ‘rewarded’ by attention of the issue) and encouraging other stuff probably works best. Must be hard though when you see him doing it ;(
      These things also tend to make us feel guilty, and we ALL have something to feel guilty about (according to ourselves!). Hope your giving yourself daily pats on tha back as well luv.


    1. Cool, thanks! There’s another cool one similar to this, when they do something you like, you say “wow, that’s what I call… And then use an adjective that describes it in a positive way, that way they are internalizing really cool positive things about themselves. Example: that’s what I call generous, that’s what I call creative, that’s what I call resourceful, that’s what I call thoughtful…etc.
      (Not my own idea, rad it in “how to talk so your children will listen and listen so your children will talk”, great book)


      1. I love that book! I need to own that book, but I’ve suggested it to so many people. I had forgotten about that phrase until you reminded me, though. Thanks!


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