12 Nov

"Understanding the Difference between Praise and Encouragement: Which is More Effective for Positive Guidance in Childcare"

Positive guidance strategies have become a crucial aspect of early education, replacing traditional disciplinary methods. Among these strategies, praise and encouragement are two important but different techniques that practitioners use. However, many prefer the latter over the former. This blog post will highlight the key differences between encouragement vs praise, and explain which is more effective.

Praise often entails a value judgment when used by an adult towards a child. For example, when a parent or educator says "You're such a smart boy" or "I love your painting!", the message being conveyed is that the child deserves praise for behaving in a way that is held in high regard by the adult. This type of praise focuses on what the adult thinks or feels and often includes a judgment, such as "good." As a result, children who are praised tend to do things to please adults rather than out of intrinsic motivation.

Encouragement, on the other hand, carries no such judgment of what is "good" or "nice" according to the adult's scheme of things. Phrases such as "You seem to be really enjoying playing with all those colors" or "Thank you for cleaning up your toys without being reminded," highlight specific things children are doing right, without subjecting them to evaluation. Since non-judgmental encouragement focuses on what children are doing well, not what an adult thinks about their work, such children tend to develop a stronger self-motivation.

A key difference between praise and encouragement is that the former tends to focus on a person or product, while the latter highlights the effort. Praise would reward a completed worksheet or say something like "You are such a beautiful child", while encouragement would focus on the behavior, such as "I can tell you're working hard on reading because you finished a longer book." By focusing on effort, encouragement makes room for motivating children who may not have completed tasks but are putting in the effort.

Another consequence of praise is that it tends to discourage children from taking risks. Children who are dependent on external validation may be unwilling to lose their praiseworthy status, and as a result, they take fewer risks. However, the process of trial and error is critical to new learning. On the other hand, children who are encouraged are less invested in getting it "right" at the first instance, and hence are more willing to take risks, which eventually helps them explore and learn better.

In conclusion, encouragement is a self-esteem enhancing tool that should be utilized more often by childcare professionals. By focusing on the child rather than the adult, it helps children feel that we are interested in them and what they are doing. It also shows that we have taken the time to notice how they are feeling, which is crucial for their overall development.

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