Praise Versus Encouragement

“Like others I had believed that it was necessary to encourage a child by means of some exterior reward that would flatter…baser sentiments….to foster…a spirit of work and of peace. And I was astonished when I learned that a child who is permitted to educate himself really gives up these lower instincts.”  -Maria Montessori

Initially Maria Montessori believed that for a child to develop confidence and self-esteem, external rewards and praise were a necessary motivating factor. However, Montessori came to believe that by providing encouragement, an environment that supports a child’s needs, and being able to withdraw and let the child express what they need means that the child can develop their own sense of self without having to be dependent on praise from an adult. Montessori also believed that excessive, long-term praise can inhibit children from gaining independence because they rely heavily on the praise of those in positions of authority. As an alternative, encouragement can be empowering. There are no conditions and it is not judgmental. The receiver is encouraged to make judgments of their own behaviour, work and ultimately self-worth.


“You make me happy when you help me.” “I really appreciated your help.”
“You did math just like I told you.” “It looks like it took you a lot of effort to complete your math.”
“Good job.”   “You got dressed all by yourself!”
“I’m so proud of you.”         “How do you feel about the work you finished?”
“Your picture is so pretty.” “Wow, you used so many colours to create your artwork!”
“You’re so smart.”    “I see you put your best effort in your work today.”


Remember we want our children to love themselves and feel the pleasure they derive from accomplishment. By offering the child support and encouragement, we are supporting the child to be able to do things for themselves today and in the years to come.