Deep Thoughts…PRAISE vs. ENCOURAGEMENT

Posted on February 28, 2009

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This week, I was totally discouraged with my efforts at parenting.
It just so happens that was a good thing.

Bottom line: this week was chaotic, and unfortunately, I had a bit of a relapse into yelling, snapping and demanding from my kids. I felt terrible but with all the external stress from a MIL visit, to my au pair moving to Mexico, to my husband heading to China for 12 days, to  3 boys being on winter vacation (STUCK INSIDE), to working from home- I kinda just slipped back a rung or two.
Luckily, as I messed up my efforts at staying on track, it lead into this week’s topic:

ENCOURAGEMENT VS. PRAISE.


PRAISE
is the empty commentary we dish out to make people have better “self esteem” when they do things “right.” You know the drill, good job, nice work, that’s great, better luck next time (because the OUTCOME wasn’t the best). It’s the “I APPROVE” stamp we stick all over everything- when they do things right or perform tasks.

ENCOURAGEMENT, however, says, to children “DO YOU APPROVE” of this experience? For example, no matter if it’s an A+ or an F-, it’s not the outcome but the question: Do you think you studied enough? What will it take to raise the grade? What felt great about scoring high?

So, down the core:

praise = I’M TELLING YOU about your life.

vs.

encouragement= YOU TELLING ME about your life.

Now, let’s pretend I’m a kid and I screwed up my assignment. If you were praising me, you could say….well, better luck next time because let’s face it, you screwed up but don’t worry, I’m sure you can fix it- make it perfect.

If I’m a kid who screwed up and you’re encouraging me you could say, “Well, greenmtmom, whatever. Start again- who’s counting? What will it take for you to improve upon this mess?”

With the praise, I’d think “crap…I didn’t do a good job…I’m being judged and I won’t get a reaction until my next week goes “excellent!”.

With encouragement, I’d say, “Well, I guess it’ll take me re-focusing and aiming for the small goals. Because let’s face it, nobody can be perfect.”

It’s a subtle difference that sends a whole different message.

NOTE TO SELF: There’s always this message :).

“Children need encouragement. If a kid gets an answer right, tell him it was a lucky guess. That way he develops a good, lucky feeling.” Jack Handey

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