Teaching Our Kids To Be Proud of Themselves: More Encouragement, Less Praise

As moms, we spend a lot of time building up the spirit and character of our children through praise. We tell them how proud we are of them, how beautiful they look, and how smart they are. We love the little smiles that pop up on their faces when we exclaim: “You played so well on the field today!” (even if they didn’t.)

I agree that praising our kids is OK…to a degree. Admit it, when your boss tell you you’ve done a wonderful job, or your significant other tells you how fabulous you look, you feel like jumping up and down. Why? Because it feels nice on the inside. We feel noticed and respected, even if we don’t truly need the validation.

Our kids might not need as much validation, either. Instead of constantly praising them, we can encourage them through their hurdles and their moments of joy. They are eager to show us their work; they look for comments on how they look; they want to know that we notice them. However, by encouraging them, rather than praising them, we put the emphasis back on them. We’re teaching them that it doesn’t matter what others think, but are they proud of themselves? Do they like the dress they picked out? We’re also starting a conversation with them, rather than giving them empty praise.

Here me out:


Child: “Mom, do you like the picture I drew?”

Mom: “I love it, great job!”

(Your child smiles in delight and moves on. Conversation over.)


Child: “Mom, do you like the picture I drew?”

Mom: “I can tell you worked really hard on this! I see you spent a lot of time creating the sunset. What can you tell me about the colors you used?”

Now, you and your kiddo are having an in-depth conversation about what they drew and why they drew it, rather than the child seeking your approval and moving on. You’re putting the hard work they did back on them and giving them your attention, rather than a simple thumbs up.

I know this all might sound a little strange, but give it a try! Push yourself to offer more encouragement to your kids so that they can learn to be proud of themselves. Try to focus on the effort and the process of their work and less on the outcome.

Jessica Grubb
Jessica, a native of North Texas, lives in Wylie with her husband of 8 years, David. She is an elementary teacher, turned stay-at-home mom, turned preschool teacher. When she’s not up to her elbows in a random project, writing and re-writing lesson plans, or reading (trying to finish?) a good book, she and her husband are busy raising their three incredibly amazing kids: Emily, who just started Kindergarten, loves science, and wants to be a chemist when she grows up, Liam, a 3-year-old who can always be found playing with trains and building intricate tracks, and Charlotte, a 1 ½ year old who enjoys dragging her Lambie around and belting out songs in the middle of the store/doctor’s office/library. Jessica graduated from UT Dallas with a degree in Literary Studies and then went on to receive her teaching certification from Texas A&M Commerce. She has taught private school in Garland and public school in Plano ISD. She is currently teaching at a preschool in Wylie where her middle and little also attend. She thinks it’s great that she’s right down the hall from them and is happy to be back in the classroom! She loves to write and recently started a blog about being a mom, wife, and teacher: I'm Sorry for What I Said When I Was Tired