Everyone likes to be praised, right? Actually,  too much praise can have a boomerang effect if the recipient of the compliment  believes it is untrue or unrealistic. It can also cause distrust or discouragement of other members of the team or family.

While praise may be of value, if the child or employee maintains a low opinion of himself or becomes dependent on the outside world to give him an external reward, he is constantly looking for external approval. Our goal as employers, parents, teachers and coaches is to encourage positive progress without unrealistic praise and assist in building inward confidence.

Recently a grandmother asked me on Facebook how to encourage without giving unrealistic and too much praise.

“Have you suggestions between praise and “too much” praise – i.e. “You really worked hard on that project” vs. “You are WONDERFUL” – which is easy to spout but really pretty meaningless. Today’s young workforce expects to be praised for everything vs. deserved praise or encouragement.”

My answer was:

Hi Jo Ann- You have raised such an important point. “You really worked hard on that project” is encouragement and it is praising the process rather than the task.  It is transferable to other tasks and attempts.  You are saying “Keep going, you are on the right path.”

When kids get praised for every little thing they come to expect it and feel they deserve it.  The world of work is not going to give them constant approval. They are in for a big shock when no one is going to applaud their every effort.  If the child has come to look for praise and external evaluation which must constantly be earned, he may be unsure when he will get it again. This causes some to fail or to sabotage efforts of others on the team in order to receive the coveted “praiseworthy” award.

This next generation of children coming up must be able to trust their own judgment and intuition.  They must be able to follow their own inner compass rather than waiting for outside approval.

Difference Between Praise and Encouragement

Praise is like a reward for something well done, and implies a spirit of competition.  The unspoken message is clear; “winner takes all.”  When members of a workplace, family or class are singled out for unrealistic praise, the others become discouraged and also lose faith with the authority figure.

In contrast, encouragement may be given for any effort or for slight improvement.  Encouragement is not concerned with superior-inferior relationships but focuses on making the child or employee understand they are a valued part of the team.

Self esteem comes from an inward knowing that you are a capable problem solver. The effects of encouragement and cooperation that builds respect for self and others have long range and lasting results.

I encourage you to claim your free ebook at:


Judy H. Wright aka Auntie Artichoke, family relationship author and speaker


Encourage Without Unrealistic Praise