“Good Job!” I say smiling down at my son who just flipped his first pancake, “Honey you look so pretty in that dress!” I coo as my daughter slides into the kitchen. Little do I know that I just encouraged my son to seek my approval and informed my daughter that she only looks pretty in that dress, subliminally telling her to where more dresses.

Influencing the minds of our little ones happens whether we are paying attention or not. A greater portion of time than I want to admit, I am not paying attention. But by becoming aware, and with the help of my wife, I am working towards understanding how my words influence our kids.

I am sure you are here because you are a parent or leader who is looking for ways to encourage others and give them that ultimate confidence they need to accomplish tasks themselves and feel good about what they are doing! We are going to be looking at the difference between Praise and encouragement to better understand the difference and by doing so, examine which one we should be focusing on to keep the people we are working with feeling empowered and confidant.

For starters lets look at the definitions of each –

Praise: “Express warm approval or admiration of; The expression or admiration for someone or something

Encouragement: “To give support, confidence or hope to someone; to inspire with courage

Why should we care about how we are praising or encouraging others? If you are working with children its important to think about the long term effects. We all have seen a child’s face beaming after hearing a short word of praise, and when a child is happy, we feel happy to! But what is the long term effect of praise? Is it possible that after hearing so many praises the adult or child instinctively begins searching and validating themselves by looking outside of themselves for approval rather than approving of themselves?


The very definition of Praise is the expression of approval or admiration of.

But with Encouragement we inspire with courage, give support, confidence or hope. Long term which will benefit the other person or child more?

“So how do we make the transition of taking praise and turn it into encouragement? “

The first step is to take yourself out of the equation, encouragement is about the other person, it should never be about your judgment about what they accomplished.

Lets look at some examples: pretend you are the child and I am the adult tell me which set of comments feel better?


I’m so proud of you!

You are a good Girl or Boy

I like the way you did that!

I’m so happy that you did that!

You did that just the way I told you!

I think you are perfect!



You must feel very good about what you accomplished

You figured it out by yourself!

How do you feel about what you accomplished?

You must be proud of yourself!

You are capable of making that decision for yourself!

That “Bonus” reflects your hard work!

I would venture to bet that after reading that first list, you started to feel a little icky. While the second list may have not hit all the pleasure centers in your brain, it most likely left you feeling capable and inspired to do more.

Offering praise is something that we all have learned to do, and this article is not about completely eliminating all praise from your life. Children like it! Adults like it! But I believe that we should have a healthy balance for those we wish to help.


In a book called Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen she says “Praise like candy, is enjoyable on occasion, Encouragement, however, should be the staple that you give to yourself, and your family every day.” In this book there is an entire chapter that covers this concept and its goes into great depth. For any parent who is aspiring to better understand how to create more self-reliant or resilient children this book is a must read!

So build their foundation with encouragement, stack the blocks with encouragement, and cap off your pyramid with praise. Today is a good day to make someone smile inside. You are capable of changing someone’s world for the better.