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The Power of Encouragement: How to Foster a Growth Mindset in Kids

As parents and caregivers, we all want our children to grow up to be happy, confident, and self-motivated individuals. One way to help our children develop intrinsic motivation is by using encouragement rather than praise. Sound strange? Read on to find out more

What's the difference between praise and encouragement?

First of all, I thought it would be helpful to distinguish between the two Praise is a form of positive feedback that acknowledges and reinforces good behaviour or achievement. Praise is often focused on the outcome or end result of a child's actions or behaviour. It typically involves offering compliments, rewards, or approval for a job well done. For example, saying "Good job on getting an A on your test!" or "You are so talented!" are examples of praise. It often focuses on the adult too - "I'm so proud of you for doing that"

Encouragement, on the other hand, is a way of supporting and motivating children through the process of learning, growth, and effort. It involves offering support, guidance, and feedback that helps children develop a growth mindset and intrinsic motivation. For example, saying "I notice you put a lot of effort into that. Keep trying!" or "You can be proud of yourself for taking on this challenge" are examples of encouragement. Encouragement can help children develop a sense of self-efficacy and resilience, as they learn to value the effort they put in and focus on learning and growth rather than just achieving external validation. It also focuses on them, rather than the adult.

What's the risk of using praise in the long term?

While praise can be effective in the short term, it may not always lead to sustainable motivation, as it relies on external validation. Praise, when used too often, can create a cycle of dependency on external validation. Children who are praised for their achievements may become overly reliant on that praise and may lose sight of their own intrinsic motivation. For example, a child who is praised for getting an A in a test may become more focused on achieving the same level of praise in the future rather than on learning and growing. This can lead to a lack of motivation when the child faces challenges or setbacks, as they may feel that they are only worthy of praise when they succeed.

On the other hand, encouragement focuses on the effort a child puts in and the process of learning, rather than just the end result. This can help children develop a growth mindset and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. Encouragement can also help children learn to persevere through challenges, as they understand that their effort and hard work are valued and appreciated, even if they don't always achieve the desired outcome. This can help children develop resilience and a sense of self-efficacy, which can lead to sustained motivation in the long term.

What does encouragement look like in practice ?

Here are a few examples:

  • Instead of saying "Great job! I'm so proud of you!" when a child completes a task, try saying "I notice you put a lot of effort into that. Well done!"

  • Rather than praising a child for achieving a high grade, ask them about what they learned in the process and what they found challenging.

  • When a child faces a setback or makes a mistake, encourage them to keep trying and to learn from their mistakes rather than just offering praise for what they did well.

In conclusion...

In summary, while praise can be effective in the short term, using encouragement as a way to develop children's intrinsic motivation can lead to sustained motivation and a sense of pride in their accomplishments. By focusing on effort and growth, rather than just the end result, children can develop a growth mindset, resilience, and a sense of self-efficacy that can help them navigate challenges and setbacks throughout their lives.

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