Encouragement Vs. Praise


    Locus of Control

    • Encouragement often engenders an internal locus of control within recipients, while the use of praise increases the likelihood that recipients will develop an external locus of control. According to Garry Landreth and Sue Bratton, authors of "Child Parent Relationship Therapy," children who operate from an internal locus of control are likely to demonstrate problem-solving skills and are not likely to draw their self worth merely from positive comments by others. By contrast, children who function with an external locus of control are more dependent on adults and peers, and often seek to gain the approval of others.

    Reliance on Modifiers

    • A key difference between encouragement and praise is that subjective modifiers are used frequently during praise. By comparison, encouragement uses such modifiers sparingly. Modifiers used during praise may rely on superlatives such as "best" or "utmost." For example, a teacher may praise a student for being "the brightest student in the class." The teacher's praise is modified by citing this particular student as the "brightest." Encouragement may also use modifiers, but probably only in a limited sense, such as, "This is the hardest you have worked all day."

    Unfair Comparisons

    • Contexts of competition rarely evolve from words of encouragement, but rather are common byproducts of praise. Because it is targeted to an individual child, encouragement is often given in one-on-one conversation. Praise, however, is usually administered in a group environment, and may leave children feeling a mild sense of jealousy toward any person who receives the bulk of the praise.

    Descriptive Recognition

    • Words of encouragement typically avoid vagaries, opting to recognize specific acts and attitudes, whereas praise may be less specific in nature. Far from being generalized, encouragement is descriptive in its method of recognition, stimulating critical thinking skills both on behalf of its provider as well as its receiver. For example, if a child learns to tie his shoelaces, an example of encouragement may be: "I am impressed at your patience to learn how to tie your shoe." Praise for the same act may simply be, "You're awesome."

    Stimulating Cooperation

    • While both encouragement and praise may stimulate cooperation, praise often breeds results-oriented cooperation while encouragement often allows participants to develop enthusiasm about participating in a cooperative process. Encouragement can also be used by participants themselves to build a network of peer-oriented support. By contrast, praise dispensed by peers can serve to isolate members of a group into competitive cliques.

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