Encourage, beyond praise

February 12, 2009 at 4:21 am 3 comments

What’s the difference between praise and encouragement?

A worthy question. Praise uses judgment and encouragement is non-judgmental. Praise evaluates and encouragement does not. As a result, praise relies on extrinsic motivation and encouragement is all about intrinsic motivation.

Why is intrinsic motivation superior? It works. In other words, we are truly and lastingly motivated when the source comes from within. In the end, a child who is encouraged will trust themselves, know who they are, be resilient, and be strong in the face of peer pressure and other outer influences. The child who is encouraged will look inside him or herself for happiness and well-being.

Great. But…HOW TO ENCOURAGE WITHOUT PRAISING, right? Ahh yes. Here is the challenge and gift for us as parents: to observe without evaluation. Here are some guidelines:

1. Ask questions which have NO right answer.

How was that for you?
What was that like?
Tell me more.

2. Remove all reference to GOOD or BAD of any kind. This begins with a radical re-thinking on your part. At the core, you must shift from good/bad, right/wrong thinking and replace it with NEUTRALITY. Until you do this, even if you are not saying “good/bad”, you will be giving it away in your tone or expression. Coaching is a powerful way of unravelling these beliefs so you can understand and appreciate the power of neutrality.

3. State observations.

You jumped higher than last time.
You were balancing.
You’ve added arms and legs to that drawing.
You used more color than last time.

Even these statements are tricky because your child is wise. She will hear what you value and take it to heart. (Hmmm. I guess I’m supposed to jump higher because higher jumps are better than lower jumps.) So include ANY observation, especially ones that, in your old way of thinking, you might not have valued.

That drawing has lots of lines all over.
That jump was lower (same tone as higher jump).
Yes, you did fall down (neutral, no drama).

4. Let your child know that WHO SHE IS is being seen, heard, valued. This is most encouraging of all, and meets our essential need to MATTER. This will be communicated by your vibration, by your way of BEING, far more than by what you say.

I see you.
I hear you.
I adore you.

Maybe most important of all…remember that your children do not need you to encourage them in order to learn, to grow, to develop. When you believe, really believe, in their innate ability to do this WITHOUT ANY INTERFERENCE FROM YOU…then, you will be naturally encouraging, just as you are.


Entry filed under: inspiration.

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. heidi  |  February 12, 2009 at 4:45 am

    i love the photo of elliott and the mask! and thank you for more parenting support with this latest entry. it’s so helpful when you provide concrete suggestions as to how we can apply these parenting principles in day to day life with the little ones (a.k.a our teachers!)

  • 2. Harmony Rose West  |  February 12, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    I’ve been an early childhood educator for 25 years and your communications are very helpful and right on!
    Asking open-ended questions (ones that have no right or wrong answers) are ways to gather information from your child in a respectful way.

    Speaking neutrally means that I am open and non-judgmental. I see you for who you are without the lens of my opinion clouding every little thing. this type of communication is called reflection. I am communicating what I see, I hear, I feel and stating that to back to you. The beauty of what happens with this kind of communication is that your child feels seen, feels valuable and will form healthy core beliefs such as I am worthy, I am valuable, I matter….These core beliefs are the foundation of his or her sense of self worth.

    Thanks for all the encouragement and inspiration you provide to mothers and fathers.
    Many blessings,
    Harmony Rose West

  • 3. Gamma Hinda  |  February 12, 2009 at 11:04 pm

    This makes so much sense- not always so easy for me to put into practice but I keep trying. Does this mean you can teach an old dog new tricks? I sure hope so. We need to value our children more!!! L.


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