How to Encourage Your Kids

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Encouraging your kids can lead to many positive outcomes. Thoughtful encouragement can change their overall attitude and how your child responds to you. Words have substantial effects on your children. 

Learn how to use your words to encourage your children. Not only will you see behavioral changes, but you will also strengthen your bond with your child. Twin Cities Kids Club is here with helpful tips on how to encourage your kids correctly.

Many parents worry their kids might be bullied and aren’t getting encouragement outside of the house. Parents often overuse phrases such as “good job” or “Wow, you’re so smart” to praise well-done tasks. However, not all encouragement and praise are created equal. 

Using these exhausted phrases, sporadically and without intention, can be unfavorable. Your child may begin to show a decrease in motivation to perform well.

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The Benefits of Encouragement 

The right encouraging phrases can have many impactful benefits.

  • Improve your child’s self-esteem. Children with higher self-esteem are more persistent. They are also more mentally fit, whereas those with low self-esteem may become stressed or depressed. 
  • Help increase your child’s intrinsic motivation. You will give your child the power to enjoy challenges and not just seek a reward.
  • Intensify their perseverance.

So, What’s the Correct way to Encourage?

Praising and encouragement are so beneficial. Does that mean you should use it liberally? Often the quality of praise is much more effective over the quantity of praise. Excessive praise can cause more harm than good. 

The secret to successfully encouraging your kids is about how you praise them and when. 

Father and son. Father teaches a child to walk on a potty. The father is happy and ready to hug the child. Dad is very happy about the successes of his son and encourages him. Baby toiletries

1. Use Honesty and Sincerity

We often use praise to encourage our children to perform a task, boost their self-esteem, motivate them, and maintain certain behaviors. However, kids develop their self-view very early on. 

If you oversaturate your child with praise, they will sense any insincerity and dishonesty. Then any recognition that is inconsistent with your child’s self-view could be perceived as insincere. 

The child disregards these praises because the child feels that the recognition is contrary to their actions (That’s untrue, I misbehaved today). These praises will make your children self-criticize and self-sabotage.

When praises on behavior are overly general, they can also perceive it as insincere. Praising used to reinforce or manipulate a particular action will not be seen well by your child.

2. Employ Descriptors and Specifics 

The best way to avoid praises perceived as insincere and dishonest is to avoid using generic words of encouragement. The less general your words of encouragement, the more likely they are to be sincere and factual. 

Point out specific aspects of your child’s actions and explain how the behavior led to positive results. For example, instead of saying “good job” be descriptive and precise, try something like “Thank you for helping me tidy up. I appreciate you putting all the shoes away”.

Specifics will signal to your child that you are paying close attention to their actions and care. 

Happy together. Young mother with her son having great time at home.

3. Steer Clear of Comparison Praise 

Social-comparing can be an effortless habit to form because most of us were raised being compared. Either through school grades, test scores, or athletics.

Imagine how it feels to be compared to a peer or a successful coworker. When you exceed expectations, it is motivating; however, when you fail, it can be upsetting and unmotivating. 

The same happens in children. Comparison praising causes them to lose motivation quickly. They continue to compare themselves to others even when they fail. 

Much like conditional praise, comparison praise causes children to feel that the outcome is the goal, not the process. Therefore, causing children to avoid new challenges and avoid learning things in areas they lack natural talent. 

4. Praise Process and Effort Instead of Ability 

When you praise your child for the effort that they put into a task, you teach them to attribute success to their efforts. Through practice and hard work, their work ethic and skills can improve. Therefore, your child will focus on developing their skills rather than the results. 

Encouraging your child to master the material will lead to a growth mindset. Your child will believe that through practice and dedication, they can improve their skills.

Teaching your children the growth mindset increases your child’s persistence, intrinsic motivation, and enjoyment of things. Children learn that they have only failed because they have not tried hard enough. This failure will motivate them to try again to improve their performance, creating resiliency. 

Although, children praised for abilities learn to attribute their successes to their abilities rather than their effort. These types of phrases may motivate children to try harder. However, once these children encounter failure, they’re more apt to give up faster. 

When praising a child’s ability, this can lead them to believe that their success stems from only their ability to perform a task. These praises can cause a child to form a fixed mindset. Children with this mindset may suffer from achievement-based helplessness and lack of resiliency, which is needed to succeed in life. 

Praising ability will have an immediate motivational benefit, but in the long run, it will cause vulnerability when dealing with difficult situations and failure. To avoid a fixed mindset, you should aim to praise your child on their thoughtfulness, concentration, and strategies. 

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5. Watch Out for Over-praising and Easy-Task Praise

Negative effects can also stem from overpraising and praising children on easy tasks. The words also have a tendency to read as insincere. 

When you overpraise, you can condition your child to believe that a lack of praise means failure. Overpraising can also have the unfortunate side-effect of creating an over-inflated ego. 

Unfortunately, the child’s self-worth also becomes dependent on performing correctly every single time.  

6. Steer Clear of Controlling and Conditional Praise

Conditional and controlling praise is the opposite of informational feedback to praise a child’s mastery of a task, improvement, or skill development. This form of praise has the intent to manipulate your child. 

For example, a phrase such as “That was such a great job, but I know you can do better” is used to motivate your child into trying harder next time. Using conditional phrases that are contingent upon good results and performance can ingrain a sense of contingent self-worth

Children develop their sense of self-worth as young as two years old. Self-worth is the sense of one’s own value or worth as a person. 

When a child has positive self-worth, they will use positive terms to describe themselves. They will usually attribute their success or failure to their efforts. 

While children who have negative self-worth us negative terms to describe themselves. They will battle with their self-esteem and link any success and failures to their capabilities. 

When children feel that their self-worth is dependent on positive judgment and approval, they will form fear of trying new things. These kids that fear novelty have been found to be less innovative. They want to avoid disrupting cultural norms that could lead to negative judgments.

When used properly, praising can be a very powerful tool for parents. However, it is crucial to be mindful and intentional with your praising. Every child is different while you may find that some need more praising than others.

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