Little Johnny comes home from school with his report card in hand and a big smile on his face. You know it must be good by just observing his body language. Sure enough, you open it up and see that he has received straight “A’s.” You are so proud of him and you tell him so. You pat him on the back and perhaps take him out for a special treat at his favorite eating place.
Tim has excelled in basketball and is the star player on his school team. He leads them to the tournament championship. You commend him for his superb play and remind him that the team probably could not have done so well without him.
All parents like to see their children achieve well in school and in the sports arena. We find it a pleasure to encourage children like Johnny and Tim who do so well. But, wait a minute! Is this encouragement or mere praise? Suppose Johnny didn’t bring home straight “A’s.” Suppose Tim played in a losing cause instead of winning the championship? Would we have been just as quick to compliment them? It’s my observation that there is a difference between praise and encouragement. Praise says that I am proud of you for what you do. Encouragement says that I am proud of you for who you are. Praise leaves the subtle message to children that they have to excel in order to receive parental commendation. If they don’t perform well, their parents will remain silent. On the other hand, encouragement conveys respect and appreciation to children even though they may not finish at the top. This builds character and confidence. As a parent, do you encourage your children, or do you praise them only when they excel?