The Power of Encouragement: How to Use it Effectively

Encouragement is a potent motivator. It can elevate your child’s self-esteem and help you raise responsible and resilient children.
There is no parent who doesn’t wish to see his child succeed. But sometimes, encouragement takes a back seat in the daily rush of meeting professional deadlines, buying groceries, dropping and picking kids from school and other activities.
In fact, at times, we end up unintentionally discouraging children by using angry tones or critical comments. On the other hand, some parents end up delivering blanket praise which according to experts is even more damaging.

Difference Between Praising and Encouraging

Most parents associate praise with encouragement. Research emphasizes on encouraging children for their hard work more than praising them for their intellect and aptitude. Praise results in rearing children who tend to rely more on external affirmations than self-affirmation. Praise just makes a child feel good about herself. It does little to reinforce the action or behavior.
Praise conveys merely your feelings. Encouragement goes deeper. It renders intrinsic motivation. Encouragement focuses on the process, not the person. It applauds the deed, not the doer.
Examples of Encouraging Phrases
You worked really hard on that project
You are a good learner
It’s kind of you to share your toys
I’m proud you tried something new
You should be proud of yourself for achieving these grades
Benefits of Encouraging Children

Improves self-esteem. Children with high self-esteem are in a happier space and are mentally healthier.
Elevates intrinsic motivation to achieve
Enhances perseverance

Path Towards Effective Encouragement

Here are a few tips on employing words of encouragement effectively.

Let it be sincere and honest

Sometimes we compliment purposely to boost the child’s self-esteem or save them from upsetting emotions. Encouraging words stand discounted when the praise is contrary to the behaviour. Children can also see through such insincere praise.
Similarly, overtly generous applause may seem artificial. Instead of saying, “You are a Genius! You solved that puzzle”, you may wish to opt for, “You have a flair for solving puzzles.” Another example would be, “What an Angel you are! You shared your cookie.” If you say, “It’s generous of you to share your cookie”, it might sound more authentic to your child.

Be precise and descriptive

Let the appreciation not be generic. Encourage your child using descriptive and specific vocabulary. Elaborate a particular skill that led to the accomplishment. Explanatory comments are an indication that you have paid attention to minute details and endorse the fact that you care.
Instead of cutting it short with, “It’s awesome” or “Good job”, use a descriptive phrase such as “I like the way you have used different colours in this painting.”

Appreciate the effort not the ability

When you applaud children for their effort, they learn to give credit to their hard work for the success. When failure strikes such kids, they believe they failed because they didn’t try hard enough.
On the contrary, when you give abilities more importance, it yields immediate benefit of motivation, but such kids stand vulnerable under challenging situations. They quit faster on encountering failure.
If you wish to raise a resilient child, opt for encouraging words such as, “The strategy you employed to solve this puzzle was excellent” rather than saying, “What a smart boy!”

Let encouragement not be conditional

Controlled encouragement results in contingent self-worth. Children develop self-worth from the age of 2 years. Kids with positive self-worth evolve as confident adults. They imbibe the skill of describing themselves in positive terms.
Conditional encouragement works well for extrinsic motivation, but it gradually suppresses its intrinsic quotient. Words like “Good work but I’m sure you will do better next time” have a negative impact on self-worth. Go for alternatives such as “You worked hard this time, and you are doing great.”

Stop Comparisons

Children who are praised by comparison lose their motivation very fast. Social comparisons embed the belief that winning is the ultimate goal and not the learning.
“You are even smarter than Rahul” is a big NO. Let it be simple with “You solved the problem with immense focus.”


It is easy in our hectic schedules to let criticism slip out or communicate in an aggravated tone with children. It may take time and loads of effort to alter your communication style. But it is important for parents to pause and consider what and how we are conveying to our children.
We can help our children grow into self-sufficient and successful adults by providing genuine encouragement.

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