Content Map Terms

Praise and Encouragement


father and preschool age son hugging outdoors



Praise and encouragement helps your child to feel good about herself, and boosts her self-esteem.


Praise is when you tell your child what you like about him or his behaviour. It goes a long way towards helping your child feel good about himself.

Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. For example, "I love the way you shared your Lego with your brother just now". Descriptive praise helps boost self-esteem and build good behaviour. When children get praise for behaving well, they’re likely to want to keep behaving well.


Encouragement is praise for effort – for example, "You worked hard cleaning up your toys".

Praising effort can encourage your child to try hard in the future. But you can also use encouragement before and during an activity to help your child do the activity or behaviour. For example, "Show me how well you can put your toys away".

Encouragement is important for all children at all ages. Some children, especially those who are less confident, need more encouragement than others.


A reward is a consequence of good behaviour. It’s a way of saying "well done" after your child has done something good or behaved well. Don’t use food or candy as rewards. If you do use a reward system, try stars on a chart, a coin in the piggy bank, or a song of success. Once good behaviour is established you can phase out rewards.

Rewards can make your praise and encouragement more effective in encouraging good behaviour. Most behaviour is influenced by the consequences that follow it, so when you reward your child’s behaviour, the behaviour is more likely to happen again in the future.

Sometimes it’s easier to criticise than it is to compliment. Bad behaviour is more obvious than good behaviour – you’re much more likely to notice when your child is yelling than you are to notice when your child is quietly reading a book. Try to pay attention to the good behaviour, too!

Tips for using praise, encouragement and rewards

  • When you’re pleased with your child, say so. Describe what it is that you like.
  • Accept that everyone’s different, and love those differences. Surprise your child with a reward for good behaviour.
  • Praise effort as well as achievement.
© Raising Children Network Limited, reproduced with permission.

Resources & Links: 

HealthLink BC: Growth and Development: Helping Your Child Build Self-Esteem 
HealthLink BC: Helping Your Child Build Inner Strength 


Last Updated: November 30, 2014