“A child needs encouragement like a plant needs water.”
As parents, one of the most amazing experiences is to see our child’s face brighten up on receiving encouragement. Encouragement plays an essential role in the lives of children to make them self-disciplined and initiative-taking.
Many children feel happy and experience a sense of pride on receiving words of reinforcement for their accomplishments. It helps them to feel confident and capable.
While we may universally agree that encouragement is beneficial for children, do our words of support always have the desired effect on children? Despite our best efforts and intentions, some of us struggle to find the right words to inspire kids. At times, our efforts may even be counterproductive. That brings us to the question, is there a right way to encourage children?
Difference Between Encouragement and Praise
Have you ever felt the burden of being called a ‘good child’ or a ‘smart kid’?
We often praise children with phrases like ‘You are such a smart kid’ or ‘I like your dress’ or ‘I am glad you did as I told you.’ Statements like these may inspire children to show the desired behavior, but this may create dependency eventually. They may become pleasers, looking for approval of others. They may even feel pressured to live up to others’ expectations.
Encouraging statements, on the other hand, make the child feel capable of solving their own problems. They are non-judgmental and inspire and stimulate the child to be self-directed.
Praise focuses on the outcome, whereas encouragement focuses on the process. For instance, when our child scores well, we often use words of praise like, ‘That is a perfect score. You are amazing at science.’
An encouraging statement would be, ‘You worked extremely hard. How do you feel about your accomplishments?’ It recognizes the effort of the doer.
How to Provide Encouragement
So far, we have learnt the difference between praise and encouragement and their effect on children. However, it takes effort and practice to rephrase our affirmations. It may help to consider whether our statement will inspire a child to self-reflect or create dependence.
For example, your child has put all their things in place and cleaned their room, an encouraging dialogue would be, ‘You have kept all your books and things in place. The room looks so neat and tidy. You put in a lot of effort. Your smile tells me how proud you feel.’
When providing support, being specific about a certain aspect of their presentation, helps them to develop an insight into their strengths. For instance, for a child doing artwork, instead of making a generic remark like, ‘What an awesome painting!’, it will be more helpful to be specific like, ‘The color of the sky is so vibrant! Did you enjoy painting it?’
It is also important to remember that our encouragement should be sincere and honest. Children should be allowed to feel a sense of pride for their accomplishments and to deal with their disappointments.
When words of reassurance are used in the right way, they have a powerful positive impact on kids.
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