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How to encourage a child

Ways to encourage a child

The purpose to encourage a child is to boost his self esteem. Remember, this boost should come from within the child’s heart for himself. We don’t have to do it for him. We only need to describe some good thing about him which he believes to be genuine and praises himself for it, based on our description. This way he himself is boosting his self esteem and genuinely feels happy about it, which produces the desired results.

Daily encouragement conditions the child for success. We only need to stimulate him to praise himself.

We can neutralize our praise by criticizing next day. But describing a good thing which stimulates child mind to praise himself becomes permanent in child’s mind and helps him boost his self esteem permanently.

If our praise does not stimulate the child to praise himself, something is wrong with our praise. We need to learn some tips on ‘How to praise kids’.

Here is how to encourage a child to praise himself:

  •     Don’t waste time
  •     Praise and encourage a child for efforts, not his natural talent
  •     Be genuine
  •     Don’t be vague: Be specific and descriptive to encourage a child
  •     Don’t expect perfection : Praise slightest improvement
  •     Don’t relate it to success
  •     Don’t make comparative praise
  •     Mixing praise and criticism
  •     Do it publicly if possible
  •     Avoid negative emotions
  •     Soften your voice tone
  •     Mind your body language
  •     Don’t repeat yourself over and over again
  •     Don’t over-encourage a child
  •     Don’t drag previous errors in it
  •     Don’t be in a hurry to finish it
  •     Don’t forget the general rules of 'effective communication with children’

1. Don’t waste time

Catch him red-handed doing something right, and encourage a child right then and there. Do it immediately and spontaneously. Don’t waste any time. If you miss this opportunity and get late in praising, the effect of praise will be diluted. He’ll think the praise is an after-thought. Your praise will not register in his mind.

2. Praise and encourage a child for efforts, not his natural talent

The revolutionary research by psychologist Carol Dweck suggests that praising a natural talent does more harm than good to a child. Instead, praise and encourage a child for his efforts and works. This is so important and interesting that I can’t sum it up in four lines. Click here to read a full page on this. Don’t miss it!

3. Be genuine

Be genuine, sincere and honest. Do not exaggerate. Do not flatter. Flattery is cheap, insincere, selfish and shallow. Your praise shouldn’t be fake or artificial, otherwise it would backfire. It won’t help your child. Very soon he’ll sense your insincerity, and then he’ll suspect each one of your praise for him on any occasion after that. You loose your credibility. Your praise is not genuine if:

  •     It is selfish and gives the impression that you are praising to get something done.
  •     Creates an undue pressure in child’s mind about maintaining the praised behavior.
  •     Tries to cover up child’s weakness.

4. Don’t be vague: Be specific and descriptive to encourage a child

Don't try to encourage a child with common comments like ‘good boy’, ‘great work done’ etc. These are general praises. General praises are vague. Vague praises don’t send a clear message as to what is being praised. Their brain doesn’t take these praises seriously and tends to forget them soon.

Passing general comments like ‘good’, ‘great’ ‘wonderful’ etc is easy. Describing is a bit difficult, because you have to actually apply yourself to look deeply in what the child has done and what are the things which are good enough to describe. But it is worth the efforts. Description makes praise sincere and genuine.

Always be specific. Take a little pain of observing the child’s work, behavior or performance, and then specify clearly what you see or feel good about it.

For example, if you want to praise his handwriting, don’t just say “beautiful”. Find out and describe which letters has he written very nicely. Tell him “we appreciate you for the neatness … the flow of words … the slant of letters …” and find more good things.

Instead of saying “you dance well”, praise dancing steps that you liked. Once started, you’ll find so many things to describe.

This way, the child will find exactly what is good about him. He will believe you and tell himself, “They appreciate me for the right thing”, and praise himself.

5. Don’t expect perfection: Praise slightest improvement

If you are satisfied with nothing short of perfection, you are bound to face a lot of frustration. We as grown ups are not perfect. How can we expect our kids to be? Kids have nothing to do with perfection. Whatever good they may do is bonus for us.

Therefore, don’t expect perfection. Keep your expectation at a reasonable level. Appreciate slightest improvement in child’s behavior. Even in mistakes and accidents, appreciate your child for whatever he could save or whatever precautions he took, if any.

6. Don’t relate it to success

If we praise the child for his success only, we’ll loose so many precious occasions to praise him. Events of success are only a few. Don’t relate your praise to success. Praise and encourage a child for his efforts, irrespective of the results.

Success might come and go. But the experiences earned by the child in the process of putting in efforts are permanent lessons for the child. Keep giving him the gifts of encouragement for his efforts even if he doesn’t succeed.

7. Don’t make comparative praise

Praise a child for his efforts. Not for being better than any other child. Don’t compare him with some other child while praising. Every child his a different mind, experience and background. Every child is unique. Encourage children to promote their own individuality.

8. Mixing praise and criticism

If you praise your child and then start criticizing him saying how he could have done it better, you are suggesting the child that he wasn’t good enough. You are mixing praise and criticism. The child will forget the praise and remember his criticism. Is it what you want?

If you desperately want to mix limited amount of criticism with praise, here is how to do it.

9. Do it publicly if possible

Everybody likes public praise. Therefore, praise and encourage a child in public if you have something significant to tell people about him. Let children overhear you say something positive about them.

But don’t publicly praise minor improvement very frequently, because the child wouldn’t like people to know about each of his activity. The child needs his own privacy.

10. Avoid negative emotions

Don’t express the praise through any negative emotions like anger, hatred, sarcasm or things like that. The emotions speak louder than words. Even if you are using best chosen positive words but load them with negative emotions, the words are ignored and emotions get registered in the child’s mind. The praise looks sarcastic and insulting and ceases to be a positive encouragement.

11. Soften your voice tone

Your voice tone also reflects emotions. How you speak is much more important than what you speak. A simple word ‘Thanks’ can be spoken most politely as well as in grave anger. In both the situation the same word conveys altogether different messages. Use only positive words of encouragement and speak them with feeling and sincerity.

12. Mind your body language

Remember! Most of your emotions are reflected through your body language. So mind your body language. Straighten the skin folds on your forehead, relax your facial muscles, eye-brows, and other body muscles. Come close to the child, smile and look into his eyes. Pat on his back or give him a hug, or touch him affectionately. It adds deep emotional touch and great emotional value to your praise.

13. Don’t repeat yourself over and over again

Resist the feeling of repeating the same praising words over and over again in the same session. Saying one thing once in proper manner sends the message across. If you’ve not said it in a proper manner, it won’t serve the purpose even if you may repeat it ten more times. On the contrary, repetition arouses discomfort and suspicion in the child’s heart.

14. Don’t over-praise and over-encourage a child

Everything has a limit. You’ll loose the effect of your words by overdoing it. If you show over enthusiasm about it, the child feels pressurized. He thinks, “what if I couldn’t do it next time?” Behave reasonably.

And don’t praise any activity which you don’t want him to repeat. For example, if you praise your child’s running speed in a store, you are encouraging him to keep running in every store he visits.

15. Don’t drag previous errors in it

Never relate the praise to any previous unpleasant event. For example, if you say “I thought you’ll do it as bad as last time but you did better”. This is praise for a recent good performance, but you have finished your praise by relating it to a previous failure.

Instead, you can say, “you have really worked hard to improve your performance.” Dragging a previous error will make it a mess. You will lose the focus of improving the behavior and arguments on unnecessary things would start.

The child will come in battle mode and start defending his stand for the previous events. Very soon you will find yourself beating about the bush.

16. Don’t be in a hurry to finish it

If you are in a hurry to finish praising your child, he suspects your sincerity and thinks that you are doing it just for the sake of doing it. He ignores your praise and gets alert when ever you praise him next, even if you are genuine next time. So encourage a child in a subtle way.

17. General rules of ‘Parent child communication’

The general rules of ‘Effective communication with children’ apply on every interaction of the parents with their kids. These rules set the basic stage on which every activity involving interaction between parents and children happens. So, don’t forget them at all. Add on these rules with them.


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