Encouragement Or Praise – Which Is Better?

Encouragement or praise – which is better? When the results for the CBSE Class 10 were announced on May 26, evening, we were all excited. It seemed like we had enrolled our son in Class 1 only the other day. Where did the years go? As we reminisced and mused, and shared stories with our guests who were at home, naturally each one had a story to tell.

Encouragement Or Praise - Which Is Better? - Praising Kids Too Much

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 realise 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 outcome. Encouraging them to do better next time makes the process enjoyable
  • When we encourage, we’re focusing on effort, participation and a 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 on-going 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 recognising 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 recognising the hard work as he grapple 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.

What do you think is more important – encouragement or praise? Why?

Would love to hear your views.

Vidya Sury is a happy work-at-home Mom who relishes the joy of parenting. She is a freelance writer, business blogger and social media enthusiast and loves DIY, Books, Coffee, Music, Photography, Family, Friends and Life. She believes that Happiness is a DIY Project. She blogs at http://vidyasury.com and tweets as @vidyasury

  • I guess it depends on the situation, praise is more of target/ result oriented and encouragement is like you say about the journey and the effort.

  • Interesting post. While I can’t really say which is better, I think that encouragement is definitely more positive and has more long-term benefits for the child than praise. Read this insightful post to see the difference. It explains how praise contributes to a ‘fixed mind-set’ in children, while encouragement contributes to a ‘growth mind-set’.

    http://parentedge.in/24x7parent/the-secret-to-raising-smart-kids-dont-tell-them-they-are

    This is such an important distinction for parents of today, where we are trying to balance between encouraging self-esteem in our kids while teaching them to deal with failure!

    Kritika Srinivasan

    • Thanks for the link Kritika – I enjoyed reading it! And I love the title especially. My point is also about the long term effect of encouragement. I appreciate your comment!

  • You’re right, Prasad! While it is situation specific, encouragement almost always gets better results, it seems. That has been my experience!

  • Hi Vidya, Thank you for your comment on my post. I really enjoyed reading your post too and realised that the wisdom of the older generation is timeless!

    To your question, ‘be frugal with praise and generous with encouragement’ has been our philosophy!