Positive Parenting: It's About Encouragement, Not Praise

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

As parents, we all want to encourage our kids. Our words can have an enormous influence on their life chances and the way that they turn out. But as parents, we can sometimes get it wrong. Experts on parenting point out that parents use terms like encouragement and praise interchangeable. But there’s an important difference here. Praise is a type of external motivation. It’s something that parents do to give worth to what a child has just achieved and to motivate them to do the same thing in the future.

For the purposes of this article, motivation is something rather different. It’s when parents give their child the capacity to motivate themselves so that they can do better under their own steam. It’s akin to the old adage that you can give a fisherman a fish and he’ll eat for a day, or you can give him a fishing rod, and he’ll feed himself for a lifetime.

So how can parents induce encouragement rather than heap on praise?

Say “Thank You”

Telling parents that they need to say “thank you” to their kids when they help out sounds like the most generic advice in the world. But think about it for a second. When kids help out, what do most parents do? Do they say “thank you?” Or do they use it as an opportunity to heap on praise by saying things like “well-done” or “good job?”

There’s an important distinction here between saying thank you and saying “well done” according to www.positiveparentingsolutions.com. In the former, you’re conveying how you feel about them helping you. In the latter, you’re making a value call about what they’ve done. Experiencing the gratitude of another helps internalise a desire to help more than simply receiving praise.

Celebrate Accomplishments

Sometimes it’s a good idea, especially in sports to make an achievement concrete. That’s why sites like trophiesplusmedals.co.uk offer so many trophies and medal aimed at kids. But celebrating accomplishments needs to be about more than just winning or receiving a prize. It needs to be a time where the child is encouraged to talk about how they managed to achieve what they did. Questions like “are you proud of what you’ve achieved?” help to divert attention away from the parent and back onto the child. Children learn to focus on their own goals, rather than trying to meet the goals set by the parents, and this is almost always a more powerful source of motivation. Parents who encourage their children to reflect on how hard they worked gives kids the ability to judge their own performance and set goals for the future.

Always Listen

For kids, the world can seem like a big and scary place. That’s why it’s so important that they feel as if they are being listened to by adults. Kids who feel heard tend to feel more secure, and they have the sense that their parents are really trying to get to know them. Even though the emotional problems of children might sound trivial, like the fact that their usual playmates weren’t around during the school break, listening helps parents avoid rationalising what they are saying or minimising their distress.

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