Love and Logic Parenting: The Difference Between Praise and Encouragement

So I’m making my way through the book Parenting with Love and Logic and learning so much!  I wanted to share a few points about Praise vs Encouragement that I thought was really interesting and has changed the way I encourage my kids!

We all want our kids to grow up with a healthy self image.  We want them to be confident and feel good about themselves when they do something well and when they fail miserably.

The problem with praise is that sometimes we over-use it.  We want so badly to encourage our children, that we do it all wrong!  Have you ever praised your child for a job well done even though they didn’t do well?  We all do it…we feel bad that they failed but we know they tried hard so we say, “Good job!”  The kid is sitting there thinking, “Did he just watch the same basketball game that I played?  Cause I was terrible today!”  The child then begins to wonder what other things you say “just to be nice”.

As the book says, “In the end, false praise almost always leads to disrespect.”

Now, we shouldn’t respond with, “Well that was terrible, what were you thinking when you took that shot?!”

But we shouldn’t be corny, cheesy or insincere either.

Respond with questions and statements that let your child come to their own conclusions about themselves.  Then back them up with encouragement.

Adult: “That was quite a game.  How do you think you did today?”
Child: “Terrible, I missed every shot I took.”
Adult: “Why do you think that is?”
Child: “I don’t know, I don’t want to talk about it.” or maybe you’ll get lucky with “Maybe I should practice more?”
Adult: “Well I’d be happy to help if you like, just let me know!  In the meantime, just keep trying your best.”

Ask a question, the child comes to his own conclusion and then you offer help and encouragement as needed.

See how much better that is than false praise and cheesy cheer-leading?

Also, making statements like this are a big no-no:

“Wow!  Look at these grades!  You must be the smartest kid in class!”

What your child hears is, “Being smart in my parent’s eyes equals having perfect grades.  Anything less than perfect is not acceptable to them.”

Trade that for:

Adult: “So I looked at your report card, what do you think about those grades?”
Child: “I feel good about them, they are good grades!”
Adult: “I feel good about myself when I work hard at something too!  Good for you for trying your best!”

What your child hears is,  “My parents understand how hard I worked to get good grades and they are proud of me for trying my best.”

Another example:  Acting overly happy about every little thing your child does. Look Mommy!  WOW, that is amazing!  Look Mommy!  WOW, you are just plain awesome!  Look Mommy!  EXCELLENT!

Sure, you mean well, and by all means, we should give our kids a little praise here and there.  But there is nothing healthy about a child who expects exuberant praise over every. little. thing.

A healthy way to encourage your child is to make encouraging statements when they least expect it.  Not overly cheesy comments, just statements.

Your child’s room is clean.  You walk up to them when no one else is around, give them a little pat on the back and quietly say, ” I noticed that your room is clean.”  Give a little smile and walk away.  They feel good about a job well done, they know you noticed and that your praise was sincere.

You can also do this method just to let your child know that you notice them in general.  Your child is drawing quietly.  You walk up behind them and quietly say, “I notice you like drawing!”  And walk away.

Letting your child know that you “notice” things when they are not expecting it shows them that you notice them, their efforts and that you are proud of them without be insincere!

The book also notes a very important point about self esteem:

Positive Self Esteem Comes From Accomplishment

“The final steps of forming a positive self-concept as our kids grow is an inside job – it is something kids have to do for themselves.  It comes from working hard and accomplishing good things.  No amount of stuff or praise can build a resilient self image for children.  Oddly enough, kids don’t feel good about themselves when we do everything we can to keep them happy or give them everything they want.  They have to sweat a little and earn things for themselves.”

Makes so much sense, doesn’t it?  Take a moment to think about how you praise your kids and remember the golden rule.  How do you like to be encouraged?  False “feel-good” praise or sincere acknowledgment and encouragement?

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