Unfortunately some of us go through the day seldom hearing praise or encouraging comments. In fact, we may even be criticized by others, or we may criticize ourselves. We all know what criticism feels like. It can lead to feelings of insecurity, embarrassment, anger, resentment or depression. Yet it is easy to say something critical, especially when we are frustrated or tired. And you are certainly not alone if you find yourself being critical of your children.
We desire to help our children improve and correct their mistakes. What we may not fully realize is that criticizing our children can discourage them from trying to learn new things and may hurt our relationship with them. In the pressure of daily living we can forget the power of encouragement and praise. Encouragement and praise benefit both the giver, who feels more positive, and the receiver, who feels more able to succeed.
We invite you to begin by viewing the 7-minute video “You Can Do This-Encouragement and Praise.” Take a look at the Big Picture for an overview. Then click on Things to Try and choose an activity for learning how to encourage and praise your family members. We would enjoy hearing your stories about how these activities helped or about other things you did that worked for you.
Remember, you’re not alone. You can do this.
Begin with your own attitudes and behavior
Encouraging children gives them the courage to try new behaviors. And praising them invites them to repeat the positive behaviors that you praised. While criticism reduces confidence, encouragement and praise help our children succeed.
What is Encouragement?
Typically children will experience some doubt and uncertainty as they go through life. Encouragement can help children who may be struggling with things they consider important but may approach with insecurity, such as sports, music, schoolwork, friendships, etc.
Encouragement involves noticing children’s strengths, acknowledging their efforts, and communicating to them that they can succeed.
What is Praise?
Praise is affirming that someone has done something well. It can be expressed orally, in writing, or through actions.
Many give praise with something general like “great job” or “fantastic.” However, praise can be more effective when it is immediate, sincere, and specific. The individual should be told soon after the incident what she has done and why it is important, perhaps something like this: “Great job finishing your homework as soon as you got home!” Now you have lots of time to play before dinner.”
Benefits of Encouragement & Praise
Helping your children know and feel that what they do matters will help you have a more positive relationship with them. Of course their success and failures matter to you, but so they know how much you care?
Encouragement and praise not only produce good feelings, they help children learn and grow. When children feel valued, when their efforts are noticed and encouraged, they are more likely to make an effort to repeat the good behavior or strengthen the new skill.
People have a natural tendency to criticize more than they praise. We invite you to turn this around and make opportunities to praise more than criticize. In fact, we think it’s best to make eight encouragement or praise statements for every one criticism or correction.
“If we look for opportunities to praise, we will find them all around us: in the small, struggling steps of a child, in the improved attitude of a teenager, in the extra effort of a spouse, or in the dedication of a co-worker.” [Lloyd K. Newell, May Peace Be With You: Messages from "The Spoken Word" (Salt Lake City UH: Deseret Book, 1994).]
“A word of encouragement during a failure is worth more than an hour of praise after success” (Author unknown).
“I have yet to find a man, whatever his situation in life, who did not do better work and put forth greater effort under a spirit of approval than he ever would do under a spirit of criticism” (Charles M. Schwab, as quoted in Richard Evans’ Quote Book, 1971, p.171).
“Positive feedback, honest praise, and recognition for work well done reinforce self-motivation and make people feel good, while negative reactions in the assignments of tasks beyond one’s ability can break down both a person’s self-motivation and his self-esteem” ("Does praise help? A look at research," Ensign, March 1973).