Encourage More and Praise Less


Let’s encourage our children more and praise a little less. {There is a difference, and it’s important whether you’re raising a toddler or a teen}

Everywhere I go, I hear adults say to children “good job!” or “way to go!” for practically everything they do. We live in a society where trophies, ribbons, gold stars, and ticker tape parades are given out not just for outstanding achievement, but also for anyone who participates.

I am a former teacher and a mother myself, and I can relate to showering praise on my children, believing that I was building their confidence and making them feel good about themselves. Unfortunately, over-praising children with a heartfelt “good job” too often can cause the affirmation to lose its meaning. Children can begin to expect the acknowledgement, and are alarmed and hurt when it does not come. The child may feel pressure to live up to a certain standard or expectation of someone else, and the child may think that they always have to do something to please someone else. The child then puts the others’ feelings before their own, and becomes motivated by the recognition. As a parent, and a caregiver, the goal is to have the child accomplish tasks and have them feel good about themselves, for their own benefit.

Encouragement, especially for children, is great. By encouraging your child, you help them build confidence, trust, and respect for the people around them. Children are able to see how capable they truly are, and you will see the determination fostered from being independent.

When you encourage their actions rather than over-praising, your child feels a sense of accomplishment when they achieve a goal or milestone. Seeing their hard work pay off will build confidence, and the child will feel empowered to work towards growth and make more decisions for themselves. You can promote this growth by encouraging your child to do things independently and only helping when needed, while carefully not doing it for them. Rather than measuring their success or comparing achievements, encouragement recognizes progress and effort of the individual.

Finding other words to encourage can be difficult when we are so conditioned to praise, but if you are aware and work at it, it will get easier. Remember, the only way to get better at something is by practicing, and we are all human and revert to old habits easily. Just breathe, and know that as soon as you get the next opportunity to encourage, you can do it!

Here is a list of phrases you can use with your child to encourage them and to specifically acknowledge the progress, effort, and improvement in what they are doing:

* I see you are doing it all by yourself.
* I see that you used red and pink in your painting.
* How do you think your painting looks?
* I really appreciate your help.
* I know you can do it.
* Show me how you do it.
* Yes, you did, you peed in the toilet.
* You can climb those stairs all by yourself.
* I love you no matter what.
* Let’s open the door together.
* You must be proud of yourself, you really proved you could do it!

Use the phrases above next time you want to say:
* Good job.
* You are a good boy or girl.
* Be a good boy or girl.
* You make me proud.

” The essence of independence is to be able to do something for one’s self. Adults work is to finish a task, but the child works in order to grow, and is working to create the adult, the person that is to be.”
Maria Montessori






  1. This is such a practical approach! I didn’t have a word to put on our desire to stop celebrating mediocrity with our son. The idea of approaching it as encouragement or even just acknowledgement is great. It gives you a specific goal to focus on, rather than just trying not to over praise.

  2. I am guilty of over-praising my toddler. It isn’t on purpose, I just get SO excited when he accomplishes something for himself! The author is right though — I don’t want my son to be looking for approval when he makes progress, I want him to be doing it for himself– I want him to be confident and Independent

  3. This is such a beautiful distinction. It seems our children invite us to see them and be present which requires that we slow down and notice…saying “good job” is such a short cut because we are always so stressed and distracted. I know I personally am so addicted to approval- I have lost the pure joy of doing what I love for my own sense of satisfaction because the whole time I’m just thinking about who will like it or see it…What a wonderful article and topic.


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