Thought Snack: Praise or Encouragement

Praise and encouragement are often thought to be synonymous, but they are not.  Praise is given for tasks completed, while encouragement is aimed at the heart of the recipient.  In fact, sometimes praise can back-fire, producing unintended results.  Praise sometimes is used manipulatively to generate a desired result.  Perhaps even sadder, praise can be perceived as a token of personal worth.  Neither are positive or productive aspects of praise.

For example, a child praised for a good grade sometimes begins to work for the praise instead of the grade.  Over time the child becomes addicted to the praise, only feeling good about themselves when the right grade is achieved.  On the other hand, deliberately seeking to encourage a child toward good grades may produce better results–in the grade and in life overall.  Encouragement focuses on effort and attitude as a goal is pursued.  It helps the child stay on track toward a desired end.  The journey to the goal becomes as enjoyable as the accomplishment itself.

Please don’t hear that one should never praise another.  Praise has its place and a ‘well done’ may be just the snack needed.  Encouragement, though, is far more productive as a steady diet!

-Billie Jo