Posted in Parenting

Want to Really Motivate Your Kids? Encouragement

Did you know?? There is a big difference between praise (good job!) and encouragement  (I really like the progress I’m seeing!). Say those phrases to yourself a few times. One of them really makes you feel a lot more satisfied and warm inside, right?! It turns out that there is a reason for it.

I stumbled upon my first article online about using encouragement over praise a few years ago, right before I made the smart switch to positive parenting. I liked what I read, but I kept forgetting to employ it consistently. I nearly forgot about it all together until I started reading my positive parenting books and made a conscious effort to really go for it. There are several articles to read about why to use encouragement over praise — and you should read them — but what I want to write about is how I got the ideas to stick the second time and the results that I noticed in my kids. 

Before I dive in, I want to tell you that the book, If I Have to Tell You One More Time by Amy McCready, really helped me to get going on the encouragement front. This book is fantastic because she lists what phrases to use instead of the generic, “good job.” First off, there is nothing wrong with the occasional praise. I use it sparingly too. But that added emphasis on the action makes all of the difference. A quick Google search will help you find some encouragement phrases, too. Again, I definitely recommend reading the articles that explain why encouragement works. Here is how I implemented the strategy and got it to stick:

  1. Write down encouraging phrases or starts of phrases on a piece of paper and leave it in a place you can easily glance at them. Like most moms, I spend most of my time in the kitchen/dining area when my kids are home. I’m cleaning up, fetching snacks, helping with homework, you name it! I spend the bulk of my afternoons to early evenings in that one spot in my house. So, I have my piece of paper tucked near the back corner of my counter and wall, where I can easily see it to quickly get ideas, but it’s out of the way so the kids don’t really notice it. That was the biggest help for me.
  2. Practice those encouraging phrases with yourself, spouse, and friends. Practice makes perfect, right? Yep, I found that the more I used the phrases, the easier it got to make the switch. Plus, encouraging words can always brighten someone’s day, including your own day. So, get practicing right away and watch those faces light up!
  3. Read, re-read, and refresh yourself often. Remember how I read that online article about encouragement, and it didn’t really stick that first time? Out of sight, out of mind, for sure. So, if it helps to keep your book handy or to print out or bookmark your article(s), do it to keep those ideas fresh in your mind. I keep my books, which are covered in post-it notes and tabs marking important pages, on my dresser in my bedroom, and that way I can just pull them out and get right to whatever page I need right away.

When I consistently employ encouragement-over-praise, I do see an improvement in my children’s behavior. I see that they are more willing to finish the task. I see the glow on their faces when they know how proud I am of them and how proud they are of themselves — they feel accomplished and more positive about themselves! I also notice a difference in how they respond to me. With a quick shot of praise, maybe I get a “thanks” sometimes, but with encouraging words, I’ve got their full attention. Their little antennas perk-up (so to speak) because they want to hear what it is that I like seeing in what they’ve done. Finally, when they know exactly what they’ve done that was so good, they are more apt to repeat it. They are motivated!

I’m not saying that I am perfect at utilizing encouragement every single time. Sometimes life moves so fast that a quick “good job” or “well done” is all that you can get in. And that’s okay, too! Sometimes we even relapse. I can tell you from experience that you will notice a difference in that direction, too, as you’ll have more breakdowns in behavior and motivation. But, every time I go back to being more consistent about encouragement, things always seem to improve, even if it’s by a little bit. Hey, that every bit is always worth it! Take note on their reaction as you begin to implement the change to encouragement. That is usually motivation enough to keep me going!



I have been active as a freelance performer since 1992 and as a teacher since 1996. I currently serve as Second Flute with the Columbus Indiana Philharmonic orchestra and have performed with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Indianapolis Chamber Winds, Terre Haute Symphony Orchestra, Danville (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra, Bloomington Symphony Orchestra, Bloomington Chamber Singers Orchestra, and the United States Collegiate Wind Band’s European Tour, among other ensembles. I have also enjoyed performing for various occasions such as formal and charitable recitals as well as giving master classes at Butler University in Indianapolis and at Morehead State University in Morehead, Kentucky. I am also Adjunct Professor of Flute at Indiana Wesleyan University. I earned a Master of Music in Performance with Distinction at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester, England studying with Peter Lloyd and Laura Jellicoe. While in England, I played in charitable concerts for St. Augustine’s Catholic Church. I was featured as a soloist at the Pennine Spring Music Festival in Heptonstall, England in addition to performing in the music festival’s orchestral and solo events. I earned a Bachelor of Science in Performance with Distinction at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music where I studied principally with Kathryn Lukas. While at Indiana University, I also had the incredible opportunity to study for several weeks with Barbara Kallaur on baroque flute, Donald Peck, Thomas Robertello, and Kate Hill. I am lucky to be the mother of three beautiful and talented children, and I play on a wonderful David Straubinger 10K gold flute with 14K head joint.

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