ST. LOUIS - Most parents want to show their children that they are loved and valued. One of the ways parents can show their love is through praise. However, praise alone can actually do more harm than good to a child's self-esteem.
Steve Zwolak, CEO of the LUME Institute and Executive Director of University City Children's Center, visits KPLR 11 News at Noon to help parents find ways to incorporate encouraging language in their everyday interactions with their child.
What is the difference between praise and encouragement?
Praise is typically general and focuses on a child's action or the result of those actions. For example, you may tell your child, 'You did a good job.' after he brushes his teeth, emphasizing the 'action' or 'thing' that he did. Encouragement, however, is specific and focuses on the child. After your child brushes his teeth, you might encourage him to continue brushing properly by saying, 'Tell me what you did to get your teeth so clean.' or even asking him "How do you feel about brushing your teeth?"
Why do children need encouragement more than praise?
When children receive constant praise, they are more likely to focus on the opinions of others as their validation. It is not unusual for a child to think to himself: 'Do you like what I'm doing (or what I did)?' or 'Are you proud of me?' However, the constant need for external validation can cause to children to lose their sense of identity and self-worth. They will no longer find joy in accomplishing a task for themselves but will do it to gain the approval of others.
When children are encouraged, they learn the importance of effort, progress, resilience, and improvement, rather than just the result. When children are encouraged, they understand that they are loved, despite the circumstances.
How can parents begin to incorporate more encouragement into their relationship with their children?
· Parents must be truly present to be able to ask specific questions about what their child did or is doing.
· Change your language by focusing on your child and not his action
· Be careful about using rewards. Rewards, like praise, can put too much emphasis on the action.