Encouragement vs Praise in Positive Discipline

positive discipline positive parenting Dec 21, 2023
Positive Parenting Through Encouragement

Positive Parenting/Positive Discipline 

Positive parenting is an approach to raising children that emphasizes mutual respect, understanding, and open communication between parents and their offspring. Rooted in the belief that children thrive best in a supportive and nurturing environment, positive parenting focuses on fostering a strong parent-child bond built on trust and empathy.

Instead of relying on punitive measures or authoritarian methods, positive parenting strategies encourage parents to set clear boundaries, provide consistent guidance, and use constructive discipline techniques. This approach recognizes and celebrates the unique individuality of each child, aiming to cultivate their self-esteem, resilience, and emotional intelligence as they navigate the complexities of growth and development.

In the journey of parenting, the words we choose carry immense weight. Especially in the realm of positive discipline, understanding the nuances between encouragement and praise can shape a child's perception of themselves and their world. Let's delve deeper into this distinction.

Understanding Praise

Praise, in its essence, involves expressing approval or admiration. While it may seem beneficial on the surface, traditional views of praising children have their limitations. Over-reliance on praise can inadvertently create a dependency on external validation. When children constantly hear, "You're so smart!" or "Great job!", they may begin to associate their worth with their achievements.

The Limitations of Praise

The unintended consequences of excessive praise are manifold. Children might develop a fixed mindset, believing that their abilities are static and unchangeable. This perspective can hinder their resilience and adaptability, especially when faced with challenges. Moreover, praise that focuses solely on outcomes can overshadow the value of the journey, making children more outcome-driven rather than process-oriented.

Exploring Encouragement

Unlike praise, which often centers on outcomes or inherent traits, encouragement focuses on effort, progress, and the process. Encouragement nurtures intrinsic motivation, fostering a genuine desire to learn and grow. By emphasizing the journey and the steps taken, children are better equipped to navigate challenges and develop a growth mindset.

Key Differences: Encouragement vs. Praise

Encouragement celebrates the journey, emphasizing perseverance and strategy. For instance, instead of saying, "You're so talented!", a more encouraging approach might be, "I noticed how you practiced and improved over time. Your hard work is paying off!" Such feedback reinforces the value of effort and growth, rather than innate ability.

Practical Tips for Using Encouragement

  1. Highlight specific efforts: Recognize and acknowledge the steps taken, irrespective of the outcome.
  2. Emphasize perseverance: Encourage children to view challenges as opportunities for growth.
  3. Provide descriptive feedback: Instead of generic praise, offer insights into what you observed and appreciate.

 Real-life Scenarios: Encouragement in Action

Consider a child struggling with a challenging puzzle. Instead of saying, "You're not good at this," an encouraging approach would be, "I see you're finding this challenging. Let's try a different approach together." Such interactions cultivate resilience and problem-solving skills.

Benefits of Emphasizing Encouragement in Positive Discipline

Prioritizing encouragement strengthens the parent-child bond. It fosters a deeper sense of self-worth rooted in effort and growth. Moreover, children raised on encouragement are better prepared to face life's uncertainties, armed with resilience and a growth mindset.

Challenges in Implementing Encouragement

Breaking ingrained habits of excessive praise can be challenging. Additionally, societal norms and peer pressures might advocate for traditional praise-based approaches. However, recognizing the long-term benefits of encouragement can guide parents in making informed choices.

 While the benefits of encouragement over traditional praise are becoming increasingly recognized, implementing an encouragement-based approach presents its own set of challenges, especially in environments like schools. 

  • Many educational institutions have longstanding traditions and systems that heavily rely on reward-based or praise-centric mechanisms. Transitioning away from these established methods can be met with resistance from educators, administrators, and even parents who are accustomed to the old ways.
  • There's a potential for misinterpretation of what genuine encouragement entails. Some might equate it to excessive coddling or believe that it means ignoring areas of improvement. Clarifying the essence of encouragement versus praise becomes essential to prevent misconceptions.
  • Traditional education often emphasizes grades and standardized test scores as primary indicators of success. Encouraging effort and growth might not always align neatly with these metrics, leading to potential conflicts in assessment and evaluation.
  • Implementing any new educational approach often requires resources, be it in the form of training programs, materials, or curriculum adjustments. Schools operating with limited resources might find it challenging to prioritize and invest in such initiatives. A child's experience of encouragement at home might contrast sharply with their experiences in school. If schools predominantly operate on a praise-based system, children might feel confused or conflicted about feedback received in different settings.
  • Parents play a pivotal role in shaping a child's perspective on achievement and self-worth. If parents are more accustomed to praise or come from cultures where academic excellence is paramount, they might have reservations or concerns about an encouragement-based approach, fearing it might diminish academic rigor or expectations.
  • For educators to effectively integrate encouragement into their teaching methodologies, they require adequate training and ongoing professional development. Without proper guidance and resources, even the most well-intentioned educators might struggle to shift their approach. 


The words we choose as parents shape our children's perceptions and beliefs. By embracing encouragement over praise, we empower our children with the tools to navigate life's challenges, fostering resilience, and a growth mindset. As caregivers, let's commit to nurturing our children's journeys, celebrating every step, stumble, and stride along the way.

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