Is there such thing as too much praise and encouragement?

It has often been thought that if we offer too much praise we encourage people to become ‘big headed’ and develop an ego. With children we can worry they could become full of themselves or overly confident. However, it is becoming more evident that in fact, praise leads to positive emotions, therefore improving emotional health and overall wellbeing. I have to admit, even as an adult I have often found myself seeking praise to allow myself to feel like I have fully achieved.

Being a keen runner and training as part of a group, the encouragement I received from my coach was one of the main reasons I kept going back and dedicated a large amount of my time to training. Not only did it feel great completing sessions, having someone let you know you’d done well made the whole experience that little bit more ‘worth it’. We worked ourselves hard and often to the point of exhaustion but it somehow was the best feeling ever. I got such a rush from the adrenaline and the added boost pushing me through each repetition or set was the praise and encouragement from the side-lines.

We are often very quick to criticise For example, have you ever received bad customer service and found yourself complaining? Yup, we all do it! How often though do we stop to thank someone who has gone that extra mile, or praise someone for the efforts that in turn had made our lives more easier? With children it seems to be second nature to offer positive praise but for some reason we tend to forget that adults need praise too.

Offering praise as simple as a high five or a verbal “wow!” motivates us to try things again, even after a failure. It acts as a supportive gesture that releases good feelings. If praise is given right it can also inspire us to work at challenging tasks allowing us to develop a mind-set to not give up. If heard enough, our brains begin to take the praise and use it to grow our sense of self-worth. Therefore we become the best version of ourselves as we have a firm belief that we are capable of many things.

For our children, it is vital we offer praise and encouragement, as studies have shown it not only helps develop self-esteem but it helps children with their social skills, promotes good manners and even supports them to adopt the wish to help others. It is also important to note that we must also seek ways to encourage even when people (especially children) fail. Encouraging them that we can use our mistakes to help us grow, so our failures become part of our journey to learn.

We must also make sure our praise isn’t insincere or patronising to an individual as this can become more of a hindrance. Those with low self-esteem also require a bit more thinking about when praise is offered. If we over praise that is too enthusiastic (we’ve all come across the “OMG that’s incredible, the best thing I have ever seen” type) this can lead to an individual doubting the praise and then backing away from situations in order to avoid failure. This type of praise then becomes a negative.

Praise and encouragement is a widely researched topic and there is loads more information and support out there about what is good and what is considered as bad praise. The reason for me personally deciding to choose this topic to write about was down to a very simple experience of mine that happened recently but really got me thinking. At what age does praise start becoming irrelevant or unnecessary? In my eyes, never.

My Grandma is a very talented lady, especially when it comes to knitting. Having introduced her to Menace (my monster friend who is on a mission to help us all become more mindful!) I asked her if she had a pattern to maybe make a monster for me. Straight away she accepted the challenge. Within a day or two she had used only a photo I had sent her and knit Menace. A few days later, I received Menace in the post along with a letter saying “ here is ‘thing’, put thing in the nearest bin as he is the worst thing I have ever knit”.

Laughing at my Grandma’s sense of wit and looking at Menace, I actually started to feel sorry for my ‘thing’. There was no way I could have made anything close to what she had managed and I have to say I am quite a creative person. Straight away I took a photo of him and sent him to my Mum who was extremely quick in responding with the same thoughts as me! He looked great. It was fair to say Menace was not going in the bin.

Being so proud of my Grandma, I just had to message her to let her know my intentions were to finish off the wee details that couldn’t be knitted and that Menace was staying because I loved him and thought she was fab being able to make him just from a picture. Her reply is what led me to write this blog...

The little bit of praise I gave her had “made her day”. From her reaction and what followed, she maybe hadn’t received praise for a while. Along with asking to throw poor Menace in the nearest bin she must have also felt deflated whilst making him, “thing not looking good”. Her negative experience of knitting Menace may now have put off her off wanting to try and knit Creavey (Menace’s caterpillar friend that helps him be mindful). As mentioned earlier, praise helps us develop a confidence to try challenges and test our abilities. For my Grandma, her self-esteem had been restored when I praised her and the next day she had found herself sourcing wool to give Creavey a go!

I think it is easy to forget that as adults we also need praise. Just because we have gone through childhood and achieved , doesn’t mean to say our self-esteem and belief in our abilities is set in stone. It is a part of us that is always growing which also means it can reduce too! Taking this into consideration brings up the question that, should we be more mindful of praise? Should we be making sure that we notice when people have gone out of their way or stretched themselves to reach a goal? In my eyes, yes. Remembering that when we praise it brings about a good feeling, why wouldn’t we want to be the reason for making someone feel good?

So if you take anything from reading this post, I ask for you to take some time to be mindful of what those around you do. Offer words of encouragement to show you have noticed their efforts. Provide meaningful praise to allow them to want to work at something in the future. Make them smile and acknowledge their own abilities. A few kind words can alter that persons perspective on their day and be the reason they take on a challenge tomorrow!

The finished Menace!

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