Acknowledgments encourage and motivate. They serve to give recognition without the disadvantages of praise. Praise has a price. It implies a lack of acceptance and worth when the youth does not behave as the adult wishes. Using a phrase which starts with, “I like . . . .” encourages a young person to behave in order to please the adult. By contrast, acknowledgment simply affirms and fosters self-satisfaction.
Notice the difference in the following examples, first of praise followed by acknowledgment. “I am so pleased with the way you treated your brother,” versus “You treated your brother with real consideration.” “I like the way you are working,” versus “Your working shows good effort.” “I’m so proud of you for your grades,” versus “Your grades shows you are doing well.
Two characteristics usually determine whether the comment is one of praise or one of acknowledgment. The first is that praise often starts with a reference to oneself: “I am so proud of you for . . . .” or “I like the way . . . .” The second is that praise is patronizing. If you would not make the comment to an adult, then think twice before making it to a youth.