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Monday, June 10, 2013

Praise Vs Encouragement: Encouraging Words for Kids - Guest Post by Luschka James

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This is a guest post by Luschka James of Diary of a First Child

A new Facebook follower, Kelly Bartlett , recently caught my attention when I saw her title as ‘writer’. I followed her profile till I found a book she’d written, Encouraging Words For Kids. I then found it on Amazon for Kindle and read it and it was so good, I want to share it with you. (Click here to find it on Amazon UK and here for Amazon US*)


First, let me explain why I’m awestruck by this book.

I’ve never understood the point of people who don’t praise their children. I’ve always thought it a bit cold, and mean-spirited, and to be honest, quite damaging. Encouraging Words for Kids explains the whole ‘no praise’ philosophy so incredibly well, and rather than being a difficult study in human development, it offers alternatives and is so practical in it’s presentation, I find myself quite taken aback by it. Honestly, if all things parenting could be laid out so clearly, there would be a whole lot less unhappiness between parents!
The book consists of about 35 pages, and is super easy to read, so it won’t take long, doesn’t include a lot of unnecessary waffle, but is straight to the point and informative. Each chapter explains the why, and then it offers suggestions of phrases you could use, and finally, a real life example of an actual interaction between a parent and child, which I found really helpful.

The amazing thing for me is that while I was reading it, I started putting it into practice with three year old Ameli, and guess what? It really worked! Ameli often starts things – craft projects, playing games and so on, and just as often ends abruptly, a few minutes into playing: especially if I comment on how good she’s being and how well she’s playing on her own. I thought that it was the fact that I was drawing attention to my not engaging with her at that time that made her stop, but now I realise that’s not the case. In this particular example – similar to one in the book – Ameli was busy drawing a train. She drew the wheels and showed me her picture. Rather than my usual “that’s good darling”, cueing the end of her drawing I said something like, “Those are enough wheels for a very big train. What else do you think a train needs?”
As I understand it, she saw that I was interested, she saw that I had noticed what she’d done well, and she was able to think for herself what else the train needed. She came back each time after adding something to the train, but she eventually was talking to herself, saying things like – I think the train needs a whistle, and I think it needs a chimney.

I was awestruck how well it had worked and how much my first attempt had gotten out of her. And she was so proud of her train in the end too, and when she believed she was finished with it I was able to say how much I liked her train (rather than just ‘that’s nice’ or ‘well done’ to an unfinished set of wheels.)
Encouraging Words For Kids points out one of the problems with praise being temporary, short lived and that it creates in a child the need for constant affirmation, rather than being able to find approval of their actions within themselves.
“Simple praise feels good in the moment, but to have a long lasting effect, it must be constantly provided”
In contrast, encouragement communicates “unconditional acceptance between parents and children and have long lasting value.

As I’ve said before, I’ve never understood why you wouldn’t want to praise your child’s actions, but I realised in reading Encouraging Words For Kids that it’s not about that at all! Rather, its about making the praise have longer term effects.
 “After all, that’s why he’s showing you his achievements. It’s not because he needs an evaluation of his work, it’s because he’s proud of himself. So focus on his pride – not yours”
I think Bartlett allays all my fears about not praising my children, and sums the whole crux of why encouragement over praise is so important up in two paragraphs:
“By opting for encouragement over praise, you’re not ignoring your children’s accomplishments or communicating that they don’t matter. Encouragement is simply about keeping your responses focused on a child’s efforts and feelings as opposed to the outcomes of the behavior.
Encouraging words not only reassure kids during times of success, but also in times of disappointment. Instead of looking to a parent for affirmation, kids are able to decide how they feel about themselves and what they need to do. Their failures and successes, as they should be, are about them and not anyone else.”
There are so many paragraphs from this book that I could share with you, but I think I’ll leave it there for now. What I will tell you is that it has entirely changed my perceptions on praise, and has explained an entire theory in a very easy to read, 35-ish page book, and halfway through reading I’ve been able to identify changes to make, implement those changes, and immediately see results in my three year old.



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Product description
Encouraging Words for Kids gives parents over 150 examples of phrases to say that inspire a child’s confidence and self-motivation. Encouragement is about drawing forth a child’s own drive to work hard and do what’s right without being told; this book shows you how to get there. It is a guide that parents can turn to again and again whenever they need a dose of inspiration in creating positive communication with their kids.

About the author
Kelly Bartlett is a parent educator and writer with a focus on child development, family relationships, and discipline. She holds a BA in biology and secondary education as well as two additional certifications as a parent educator with The Positive Discipline Association and a leader with Attachment Parenting International. Kelly’s articles have been published in parenting magazines all over the world, and she is a regular contributor for Green ChildNurture, and Attached Family magazines on the topic of positive discipline. She blogs at parentingfromscratch.wordpress.com.

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