Encouraging Words

mom giving encouraging words to daughter

Do you ever feel like the only words that come out of your mouth are direct orders? “Empty the trash, be nice to your sister, quit jumping on the couch!!!” A big part of preventing bad behavior, however, is to provide encouraging words to reinforce good behavior when you see it.

And a quick “good job” doesn’t cut it—in fact, phrases like “good boy,” “you’re so smart!” and “you’re the best on your team!” are not considered encouraging words. Instead of focusing on positive internal qualities, they put the emphasis on outward praise, which does nothing to promote good behavior in the future.

True encouraging words focus on the deed, not the doer. It motivates a child from the inside to demonstrate similar positive behavior in the future, and to value things like hard work, improvement, teamwork and perseverance.

List of Encouraging Words and Phrases

Encouraging words can be as simple as, “Thanks for your help!” or “You really worked hard!” Here are a few more examples to try around your house:

Thank you for your help!
You should be proud of yourself!
Look at your improvement!
That “A” reflects a lot of hard work!
You worked really hard to get this room clean!
Thanks for helping set the table, that made a big difference.
I noticed you were really patient with your little brother.
What do you think about it?
You seem to really enjoy science.
Your hard work paid off!
That’s a tough one, but you’ll figure it out.
Look how far you’ve come!
I trust your judgment.
The time you’re putting into your homework is really paying off.
I love being with you.
You really put a smile on her face with your kind words!
That’s coming along nicely!
You really worked it out!
That’s a very good observation.
Thank you for your cooperation.
I see a very thorough job!
That’s what we call perseverance!
I can tell you really care.
You make it look easy!
You’ve really got the hang of it!
I can tell you spent a lot of time thinking this through.
I really feel like a team when we work like this!

The best part about using encouraging words with your kids is the glow of happiness you’ll see on their faces. After all, “Your hard work is really paying off!” says you noticed their work, while, “You’re so smart,” might be hard to live up to next time. Try a few of these encouraging words with your kids, and watch their behavior—and effort—improve.

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  1. I’m so glad God put you in our family!
    If I had been able to choose who my child could have been, I would have chosen you!
    We learned these in a family conference in our church.

  2. These really help…will review them each night so they become part of our every day language. How do you stop cronic lying? We’re at our wits end with this problem and NOTHING is helping.

    • Thanks Christina, glad they’ve been helpful! As far as lying goes, here’s a link to a pots I did for with some helpful tips on how to get your child to tell the truth. I hope it helps!

    • Christina, we’ve had this problem in our family as well. I have found that being ‘over-involved’ helps, talking to their teachers regularly (I pick up and drop off my kids so I talk to their teachers almost every day) and asking the kids about their day. I also tell my children, every day; “Mommy is here for you. I want you to know that you can always tell me the truth. I might not always like what you tell me but I can help you with any problem. You might have consequences for your actions. I love you and I want you to grow up to be a strong, honest, moral person. I want you to know that if consequences are necessary, they will always be less if you come to me with the truth than they will be if you lie and I find out the truth later. Remember that I am your safe place to fall. God and I will love you always, no matter what.”.

  3. Here’s one I would like to begin using:

    Not only am I pleased, but God is pleased that you did your best!

    • That is a wonderful one Vanessa. Thanks for sharing!

    • I use “Apollo is very happy and will bring the sun across the sky another day!”

  4. It is such a positive reminder that respecting my children with my words benefits them greatly I I often slip back into praise and commands. Thank you, Amy!

  5. Wonderful article! I wish we could have a print family formal so that we can carry this along with us to have as a reminder :)

    • Great idea Stacey! We’ll have to think about for further articles. :-)

    • I’m printing this for the fridge as I type!

    • Great, let me know how it works for you! :-)

  6. Look how happy your sisters is with the toy you handed over to her.

    • Well said Adrien, that’s a perfect one!

  7. Amy- I love your suggestions. I always try to encourage them to be proud of themselves vs. making me necessarily feel happy. One big concern I am dealing with is how to get my 6 yr old son to stop complaining and being so defiant. He constantly complains for the sake of complaining. He is the youngest and it honestly appears like he tries to be challenging. He is the youngest of 3 and my husband and I have noticed that when he is with us alone he is amazing and fun and a great listener. I am really struggling and my husband is at his wits end…

    • Wow, Katie, I really relate to the bit about your 6 year old. Having the same problem with my 4 year old (the youngest of two)… She’s amazing when she’s the only kid around, and a completely different one (defiant, not listening, etc.) when her step-sibling is here too. As you said, it’s almost like they’re trying to be challenging. It seems nothing works to change this, and my husband and I also are feeling very discouraged.

    • Thanks Sara for commenting. Check out my reply to Katie for a link that you may find helpful. Don’t be discouraged, you’ll find the tool that works for you! :-)

    • Katie & Sara,

      You’re not alone! My 5 year old is our youngest of three, and our only boy. He is amazing when the focus is just him, but he is so challenging when his sisters are around! I’m looking forward to any hints, tips, inspiration from Amy or anyone else!

    • Thanks Cookie, here is the same link I recommended to Katie and Sara,
      As I mentioned as well, while I dive much deeper into tools for those behaviors in the course and my book you can find lots of tips on the blog, with new ones always coming! Good luck and thanks for reading.

    • Thanks Katie! Try this link to a previous post that may have a few tips to help you out,
      While I dive much deeper into tools to help with these behaviors in both my book and the course, you can do a search of the blog for more posts and articles on tips to deal with the defiance and complaining. Thanks and good luck!

    • I have 9 year old daughter that does this same thing periodically. When we see her getting into the complaining stage we try to make some one on one time with her, we encourage her by being very specific. Instead of saying “I really like that outfit on you” focus on them more than the outfit by saying ” That was a great choice you made picking that outfit out.” We also started a thing at night and even the dinner table to go around and say one or two positive things about the day. Everyone gets involved and they think about what they are going to say all day. Sometimes they say “nothing” or “everything” and we encourage them to really think and even offer up some suggestions. We also as the parents, check ourselves and generally find that we have been more on the complaining side as well unconsciously.

  8. You would probably enjoy the book “Nurture Shock”. Especially the part about why praising a child for intelligence is harmful. There are interesting studies on this topic.

  9. ‘You did it!’
    “It is nice when everyone is happy, isn’t it”
    “I love to see you work things out with your sister”
    “I knew you could do it”

    • These are FABULOUS! Thanks for adding to the list Melanie!

  10. I believe in you and I know you can figure it out.

    • Such a great and important one! Thanks Reina!

  11. Great suggestions. Will be sharing this with my followers. Thanks so much.

  12. I always like to tell my daughter “Not only do I love you, but I LIKE you. Even if you weren’t my kid, I’d still think you’re a totally cool human being. I still want to know you and be your friend.”

  13. “I’m so proud of you!” “You are really working hard at (enter subject) in school~keep up the good work!” “I’m so thankful that God made you my son.” “You are such a special part of our family.”

    • Those are great additions Emily! Thanks for stopping by and adding to the conversation!

  14. These are amazing. I don’t have kids yet, but when I do, I want to use these every day. My mother didn’t use ANY of these phrases, or anything remotely close. Although I know my mother loves me, she didn’t express it in words and that left me emotionally scarred – I never want my children to go through the same ordeal I’m experiencing now.

    • Good for you for preparing yourself to make that effort when you do have kids! They’ll be very lucky to have you!

  15. “What a great choice!”
    “I know that made Jesus smile.”
    “You really have what it takes!”
    “You have become so responsible!”
    “That doesn’t surprise me at all – I knew you could do it!”
    “It’s just like you to impress me like that.”
    “You were a really big blessing to him when you did that.”
    “Thank you for blessing me in that way.”
    “You are such a gift to my heart!”
    “You know, your name means __________ and you sure are living up to it!”
    “You are getting better and better at that all the time!”
    “Wow, I just LOVE that I can depend on you in this way!”
    “You know what really makes me smile? YOU!”
    “I knew you were cool but I didn’t know you were THAT cool!”

    • These are fabulous Kelly! Thanks for sharing!

  16. Everyone seems to say, “Boys will be boys.” I agree to some differences, but not throwing things even disguised as part of play. How do I handle that with the child and the parents?

  17. My favorite are:
    “You are going to be such a great (mommy, daddy, teacher, etc) one day!”
    “What would I do without you?”
    “Do you see ___(how happy that made your sister? how neat your work looks ? how well that went?) Excellent choice!”
    “I love hYou remind me of your daddy.”
    “I saw you were getting frustrated. You started to hit and then you stopped yourself and used your words instead. Nice work!”
    “I didnt even have to remind you to ___(wash your hands, clear your dishes, etc). You are getting to be such a big boy/girl.”

    And because I’m a dork these are usually followed up with a high five :)

    • These are fabulous! And never underestimate the power of a high-five! :-)

  18. “Thank you for using nice words/touches. You are making very good choices.” (I use this for my 3 and 5 year olds. They’re both on the autism spectrum and it’s easy to sign as well. We use ASL to emphasize communication and help encourage eye contact.)

    “I am very proud of everything you accomplish every day, you are becoming an amazing, Godly young woman.” ( I use this for my 7 and 9 year olds. They are neurotypical-“normal”-and work so hard in school and helping me with their brothers. They also strive to make friends with the kids with “different abilities” in their school.

    • These are great Courtney!Thanks for sharing!

  19. Love all of the phrases and use(d) them a lot with my own children and in my classroom with my students. Since I have one child left at home with a large age gap between my second and third, I tell him all the time “we’re so glad God gave us YOU”.

  20. .Putting a statement positively–so that the last thing they hear is “walk” rather than “don’t run.”
    .I always try to end any interaction with a positive: I know you can do that.
    .I called my kids by their name when they did something right; otherwise I used “sweetie,” “honey,” “love.”
    . Positively say, “Stay where you can see me.” (The child has no idea where you can see them.)

  21. We are so proud of your dedication. Mommy and Daddy knew you could do it. You can do anything if you put your mind to it. We believe in you!

  22. I love this list…so helpful :) I have a daughter and a son (4yrs and 3 yrs). Right now a lot of focus has been having them get along. I’m reminding them “God made you to be a big sister, we have to teach bubby how to love like God” or “God made you to be a kind brother” and reminding them that God is using them, everyday. And that the “sibling” role is what God had planned for their life and it is so important.

    • “Wow, you made Santa Claus and his elves so happy!”

  23. I’m curious how telling our kids that they made an external being happy, especially since it’s a deity, is a good thing. It seems to me that if we want our children to be responsible and self-motivated to be “good”, then the motivation would come from them as well, not from the outside. Especially an all powerful being like Thor who could throw lighting bolts down and zap them into oblivion when he’s displeased.

    • Dean- It sounds like your experience and interpretation of God is not one you would want to encourage your children in. I appreciate that. For those of us who are believers in God, it is a far more personal experience; one that is uniquely and divinely a part of our every day thoughts and lives. As a parent it would be wrong for me to raise my children and teach them in the ways of everything except that which is my source for love, goodness and morality. I can’t even fathom how to go about that, and why would I want to try to?

  24. Dean- It sounds like your experience and interpretation of God is not one you would want to encourage your children in. I appreciate that. For those of us who are believers in God, it is a far more personal experience; one that is uniquely and divinely a part of our every day thoughts and lives. As a parent it would be wrong for me to raise my children and teach them in the ways of everything except that which is my source for love, goodness and morality. I can’t even fathom how to go about that, and why would I want to try to?

  25. I just wanted to say that your article dealing with lying is so helpful. Thanks so much!

    • You are so welcome! I’m so happy it has helped! :-)

  26. I love these! The only one I would maybe tweak would be “That’s a tough one, but I’m sure you’ll figure it out.” I’d change the last part to “Let’s see if we can figure it out together.” I feel like I’ve been facing problems by myself since I was a child. Now as a mom, not only do I wish that I were better prepared to ask for help on tough choices, but I try to work with my kids to help them brainstorm big problems…not giving them the answers or browbeating them with what they SHOULD do, of course, but nudging them to come up with a solution while giving them some advice from someone who might think differently.

    • Great idea Beth! Thanks for sharing!

  27. When my kids use to complain and complain we use to have a complaint jar. Each child had their own piggy bank with money from holidays as well as jobs well done money. If you had a true complaint because someone hurt you for example then you got a free ride. If you wanted to complain for any other reason you had to pay up to the complaint jar. This was the only way that we ALL could retain our sanity! The children actually did not like complaining but felt unable to express their feelings in any other way. They are still growing and learning, lets face it we never stop learning and growing! For children though, one of the hardest things to learn about is feelings and how to show and control them! Not to mention it was a need to feel competitive. They felt they needed to fight to get attention for one reason or another. We then would also have family meeting times. We had our security object that would get passed around. When you had the object it was your turn to speak and anything you said was okay. No restrictions. No judgement. We all then calmly talked about our problems and concerns or we didn’t. Talking was up to the individual with the security object. These meetings allowed the complaints to be heard when someone didn’t want to pay up. The thing is, that when meeting time came around most of the complaints were forgotten. Having to pay up eliminated almost all complaints after a while. The main complaint began to be that the amount of money that had to be payed into the jar was too much! We would use that money from the jar at the end of the month to do something together as a family! Now that our children have their own families this same tradition has carried on in their households!

  28. I find this stupidity! No wonder kids are so disrespectful these days. Parents spoil them rotten! Saying “your so smart” or “your the best on your team” isn’t encouraging? What’s next? Signing off your mortgage to them when their 18 since at 16 they are getting BMW’s and lavish birthdays?!? We are raising overly sensitive and materialist children! My parents never rewarded me for getting an A on my report card it was expected to! You go to school to learn and to Ace your test. “I love being with you” really?! You created that kid out of love of course you want them around you! How about 25 ways on how a child is supposed to respect parents and elders why don’t you write an article about that!

    • There are so many things wrong with what you’ve said. I will address just one: a child who feels intensely loved, and capable, and who is appreciated, will find being obedient and respectful much easier than one who is beaten into submission.

      Your attitude makes me feel sorry for any kids you have.

    • I think this depends entirely on the other elements you are using to raise your child. The last time my daughter got an A on her test I was advised by people to reward her for her A. I did not reward her for her A. Her reward was the A that she studied hard for. My daughter is taught to respect her elders and in a society that allows children to address adults by first name she is NOT ALLOWED to do this. Her friends parents are Mr. and Mrs. and that is the way we want it to remain. I don’t think being positive with your child means they will be disrespectful or entitled. My daughter tells me every day that I am her best friend….. but she lives under MUCH stricter rules than her friends do. I just explain to her the reasons why she has those rules.

  29. Erik all I’m going to say is experience world culture and look at how the eastern world raises their kids. In china parents are the Everything while the child fears them because they don’t ever want to hurt or disappoint them. Same thing goes for Hispanics,Indian, Middle East, and parts of Asia. In America our lives revolve around the child, it’s Backwards! Kids these days have no respect and I’m around parents and kids all day long in my field of work. We need to stop giving so much power to a child we are suppose to raise that knows nothing compare to the parent! Tough love is needed in this world because the reality is when your child grows up and sees what this world is about they won’t have their hearts Broken!

    • Dear Anonymous, why ever would I want my child to fear me in order to not be hurt by it? I love my child, I don’t see any need to make her fear me. If I show her respect, she does the same. Clear rules, clear consequences – sure, but fear and power as a means to bringing up a responsible child? Very odd approach, poor children of yours.

  30. Thank you so much for this. I am going to use these phrases with my son. Your words help me a tremendous amount with keeping things simple and to the point with problems we all seem to face as parents. :)

    • Thank you Christine, I love to hear that!! :-)

  31. I have found it really helpful to use encouraging statements in disciplinary situations as well. I’ve been blessed with a daughter with a conscience and any time that she has come to me to tell me that she has done something wrong I’ve always thanked her for being honest.

    “Thank you for telling me the truth. You know how much I value your honesty.”

    She’s not fearful of telling me that she has made a mistake. I’ve always reassured her that if she’s done something wrong I might not be happy with what she has done but I never shout at her or get angry. I don’t want her to be afraid to tell me the truth.

    • Great addition to this advice Lee, thank you so much for sharing!

  32. i always tell him everything is going to be alright and we’ll work it out. nobody ever told me that when i was growing up and we all need to hear that sometimes.

    • Sometimes the simplest phrases mean the most. :-)

  33. Amazing suggestions by you Amy! I recently joined ur blog and im myself finding it so helpful that i feel the difference not only in my 4 yr old but also in my own attitude and way of dealing wid my kid .. Thanx alot once again .. Lov ur blog!

  34. I feel like I do everything in my power to encourage my 4 year old, especially when it comes to things he may not feel he can do. We’ve had conversations about the words “I can’t” and he usually finds out that he indeed can. However, one example of something that he feels he can’t, and won’t rry, even with my words of encouragement and physically being there to help him is the monkey bars at the playground: he got up there on his own, put his two hands out and then hung there, too afraid to make the next move. I verbally encouraged him and when words wouldn’t work, physically stood there, under him to encourage him to make the next move. He not only wouldn’t, but now, a few extra tries later and he’s actually backing away from me when I’m standing there for him. It’s one example of him feeling like he can’t and then he won’t. Other than all the verbal encouragement (which, to be clear. In this case, I didn’t pick him up after he started hanging, instead I encouraged him to “fall” so he knew how to help himself) and the offer to show him how to make the next kove, I’m at a standstill. How can i help him learn that he can do this (or other things) that he’s simply insistent that he can’t?

  35. Thank-you so much for your positive encouraging words. I do believe that a kind word does miracles. I have used many of your encouraging words with my daughter and there was always a lovely smile on her face that meant the world to me. I always tell my daughter that she is my very special miracle from God.

  36. I am so proud to be your mother and I love spending time with you.

  37. I follow my daughters cue on what and when she most needs encouragement and at 4 going on to 15 (lol) she’s a handful at times. But in the end I know that I’m her biggest cheerleader and this post will help mW improve our relationship. Thanks Amy!