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Difference between encouragement and praise

689 Views 9 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  pammysue
I have read in several books now that it is very important to encourage your kids without constantly praising them. What I am gathering is that you want them to find an inner sense of accomplishment instead of doing things for outside approval. I want this for my children, but how do I stop saying "Good job!!!". I can't stop it from coming out of my mouth!!! What do I say instead? Maybe I just don't get it. When DD helps me around the house, or with her brother, I always say "Thank you, I appreciate your help", or "Doesn't it make you feel good to make your brother smile like that?" and NEVER "Good girl". But when she has accomplished a tough task "good job" comes right out, and when she makes me some art I always say "Ohhh - I really like it". I want her to make art because SHE likes it, not so I will like it - but what else do I say? Am I making too much of this?
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I'm at the same place. I say I love it when they help me, or that they did a good job handling a situation with a sib, or that I really like their art work. I just don't know what else to do to encourage them.
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I struggle with this too. I don't have a lot of ideas, but I do have a suggestion about the artwork. When DC has finished say. "You finished your painting (drawing, sculpture, etc), can you tell me about it?" You can use a variation on this for a work in progress as well, but I wouldn't do it after every art piece is created. It would get to be too much. Used occasionally, it really gives your child a chance to tell you what they are thinking about what they have done. I use this technique with my daughter and it is amazing the things she tells me (she's 3).
I'd love to hear more ideas as well
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oops, double post, I'm having trouble with pages loading today.
I try to comment on their hard work, rather than a generic "good job." Like if they work long on a project, I'll comment on that. "You worked really hard on that, didn't you?" or if they do something for me, I'll thank them for it, without saying good job. I have a degree in Education and I always remember learning that it's better to call attention to the work they put into something, rather than the outcome. This helps them learn that hard work pays off, rather than focusing on ability, which is really out of their control. This approach helps them realize they can accomplish anything, with hard work and perseverance. These feelings will make them less likely to give up easily later in life if something doesn't work the first time. With a painting, I'll talk to them about colors they used, brush strokes or techniques, etc. rather than commenting on whether or not I like the picture. I'll say something like, "Were you twirling the brush in a circle to make this design? Cool." or "HOw did you use the brush to make this design?" This gives them a chance to talk and think about what they did in the painting, without giving a value judgement.
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I work with kids on the autism spectrum and at first, I had to consciously practice using novel and inventive ways of verbally praising. Once I got into the habit, it became second nature.

At first, I'd focus on catching yourself when you use a generic phrase and then immediately add to it so that your attention ends with a focus on something that was part of the work. So if you catch yourself saying "Good Job!" add "focusing so quietly on your painting! What were you thinking about while you did it?" or "You are trying out all sorts of new ways of using your brush. Which do you like best?"

Eventually you'll get used to making those sorts of comments and then you won't need to think about it - they'll just come out!
I was not a huge praiser to begin with, but even so had trouble articulating to myself the "why" of that. I worried that perhaps I wasn't being encouraging enough. The following quote from Alfie Kohn's Unconditional Parenting helped me gain perspective a little affirmation as well:

Why do we feel the need to keep evaluating our children's actions, turning them into "jobs" that may, if they're lucky, be deemed "good"? From this perspective, it becomes clear that what we really ought to be looking for is a way of being positive that isn't couched in a judgement.

The happy news is that it's not necessary to evaluate kids in order to encourage them. The popularity of praise rests partly on the failure to distinguish between those two ideas. Just paying attention to what kids are doing and showing interest in their activities is a form of encouragement. In fact, it's more important than what we say immediately after kids do something marvelous. When unconditional love and genuine enthusiasm are always present, "Good job!" isn't necessary; when they're absent, "Good job!" won't help.
For us, this means taking a genuine interest in whatever it is that DS is doing. If he draws me a picture for instance, I say thank you, and then ask questions about it, "Is this the waterfall we saw on Saturday?" "I see trees, and a trail and even the little fence around the pool. You remembered so many of the details of our hike." I might keep it much more simple and say, "Oh, a picture of our waterfall from Saturday! I'm going to put it right here on the fridge so I can continue to be reminded of our special hike." DS draws a ton. I've gotten quite into the habit of sauntering over to the table and just asking questions, "Is that the steam train from Dad's set, or yours?" Oh, I see now, It's got a red smoke stack, of course it must be yours!" Etc.

Moreover, I help him to pursue his interests. When something sparks, I take time to search the library catalog for books, videos on whatever "it" is. When we're going along in our day and we get to talking about something that he's clearly wondering about, but I don't have the answers to, I tell him I'm getting up right now to "write that down" so we can serach the library next time around and then I make sure to follow through. When he wants to dress up like a pirate, or a fairy, or a firefighter I help him by showing my own enthusiasm for whatever it is he's doing at that moment, and helping him piece the outfit together if he needs the help. Sometimes I put some wings on myself and fly about the room as well.
The other day, I had the table turned on me in that while DS and I were in the video section of the library, he brought ME a video on star gazing. He knew I was interested and helped me follow MY interests.

Does this mean I never say good job? No. But it is rare, actually. If I'm really excited about DS doing something and I share that wonderful enthusiasm of the moment I'm more likely to say, "YOU DID IT." As in 'YOU' did it. Not, 'I LOVE' what you did. Or perhaps, "You climbed higher in the tree than ever before. You must be feelin' right proud about now. You were so high up, I couldn't see you!"

I think to change something like this, it just takes acknowledging it as you have and then, practice. Hope something here helps!

Best to you, mama!

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I need help w/this too, badly
i say good job WAY too much but don't know what to do instead, and becuz i feel like my kiddos are used to it, i'm afraid they will think they are not doing a good job if i simply stop saying it, so i'm looking for replacements as well, and i just got the alfie kohn book unconditional parenting
smart smart man!
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I just wanted to say that I really have gleaned a lot from the previous praise threads here on the boards. You CAN change the dialogue; at first it will seem weird (at least it did for me), but now it's second nature to me to say "You did it!" or "WOW, that's a high tower you built!" (instead of 'I'm so proud of you' or 'good job on that tower' - though I do think it is helpful at some level for kids to know their parents are proud of them, but not for every single thing they do every day
).....DS is only two, so I don't say much more than that at this point.

abandbunk, I saw you posted about "weaning" them off of praise, and I understand...depending on how old your kids are, maybe you could start by tagging an observation on to the 'good job' at first (as a PP mentioned above), then slowly phase out the 'good job' part and just have the enthusiastic observation left over? Kind of ease into it over the course of a week or so, and they probably wouldn't even notice since you were focusing more on what they were doing at that point...just a thought..

SO, thank you to everyone in previous threads who helped me with some easy, quick phrases to say to DS instead of "good job"....OK, I still do say it occasionally when nothing else quite seems to fit, but overall I LOVE taking the emphasis off MY impression of what he did and just showing enthusiasm for HIS accomplishments! It all clicked after about the 3rd thread I read on it, and it really is a lot easier now to be enthusiastic and observant instead of imposing my "judgement". As I said before, I'm trying to balance letting DS know that I'm proud of what HE does, but keeping it about HIM and not me...I think I'm doing a pretty "good job" of it!
(sorry, couldn't resist).
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"You did it" is one of my favorite phrases because that I what I want the kids inner dialog to be. "I did it!" It is very encouraging without any judgment or praise. It is just the fact that they accomplished whatever big task was before them.

Here's a couple of things that may help:

Don't respond immediately. You should be able to tell when a moment is approaching when you would say "good job". (ie as they are finishing a picture or some big job) Take a few extra seconds to figure out what you want your response to be before you respond.

Think about your child's inner dialog. This is what we think about ourselves and others. The things you say to your child create that inner dialog that will stay with them.

Make sure your children really want some response. If your child finishes a picture, wait until they come to you before you respond. I believe children really want a response for much less than what we actually respond to. Watch your children after you say "good job." Are they really paying attention or just waiting until you are finished so they can run off to the next thing?

Say "Thank you." A few days ago a kindergartener came to me and the director (I am the asst. director at a day care) and showed the book she had written and illustrated. I read it and said "Thank you for sharing your book with us." She smiled and ran off. The director (this is a new position and I am still finding things I disagree with her about) yelled after her "good job." Well, it is obvious she just wanted to share the book with us, not get our judgment since she ran away after I said "thank you." The "good job" superfluous, she already knew she did a good job otherwise she would not have shared it with us!

As far as "weaning" your kids off the praise, I wouldn't worry about it. They probably have stopped listening to it. I think you will find that you saying something new and encouraging out of the blue will really get their attention in a good way. They will be expecting another "good job", but if you say "thank you" or "you did it" they will know you are really paying attention to what they are doing and the work that goes into it.

Sorry so long,
this is something I really feel strongly about and have spent lots of time practicing and thinking about.
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