“Children need encouragement like a plant needs water”
(Rudolph Dreikers, an Adlerian psychologist and author of Children: The Challenge)
Encouragement lets kids know they are loved and are good enough, just the way they are. It teaches children that they are separate from their actions and behaviours. It lets them know they are valued without judgement. Children who are encouraged have positive self-regard and a sense of belonging. They learn that mistakes are opportunities for learning and growth.
You may be wondering, “What is the difference between encouragement and praise?” Praise and rewards teach kids to get their self-worth from what others think of them. They rely on this, rather than their own internal self-evaluation. Consider these examples:
“I’m so proud of you.” (praise) vs.“You must be proud of yourself.” (encouragement)
“You got an A. I’m going to give you a reward.” (praise) vs. “You really worked hard. You deserve that ‘A.’”
It’s easy to praise a child who is doing well, but what do you do for a child who is misbehaving and not doing well? Here are some words of encouragement:
- “You really tried hard.”
- “I have faith in you that you can handle it.”
- “You are such a good problem solver, I’m sure you can figure out a solution.”
- “I love you, no matter what.”
Encouragement teaches kids to believe in themselves and that they can do the right thing.
From: Jane Nelson, Lynne Lott, and H. Stephen Glenn, Positive Parenting A-Z, (New York: Three Rivers Press, 2007).