For most parents, praising their child doesn’t come naturally. In the midst of everyday life it is easier to see all the things our children are doing wrong; such as the shoes left in the middle of the floor, the toys they didn’t pick up, etc. As parents we may feel it is our job to point out everything our child is doing wrong as it will encourage them to change. When we only focus on the things our children are doing wrong we are actually increasing their negative behaviors while damaging our relationship.
How do you focus on the positive thing your child does if you feel they do nothing good? While it may seem crazy, you can always find something positive in even the most frustrating situations. It’s learning how to find and recognize the positive that’s hard and takes some work. Effective Praise shows you how to recognize and vocalize the good things you see your child doing.
While it may seem easy to give praise, it takes work to do it right. Effective Praise is different than just praise. General praise, things like, “good job,” or “I’m so proud of you” don’t have the power of descriptive praise. The strength of Effective Praise is that your child knows exactly what behavior you want them to repeat and why it’s important for them to do so. Children work well in specifics–so do most adults. By giving your child descriptive praise it leaves no room for ambiguity or misinterpretation.
How to praise a child with words is easy when using the four steps of Effective Praise.
Step 1: Show your approval or find a positive
When a child is acting out, it can be hard to know what to praise as you don’t them thinking their negative behavior is ok. You can always find something positive that doesn’t encourage their behavior. For example, if your child is hitting their sibling but stops when you ask them to stop. Using the first step you’d say, “Thank you for stop hitting your brother when I asked.”
Step 2: Describe the positive behavior you want. Be specific
Next step is to describe the behavior you want. This step takes some practice in getting comfortable with being specific. Sticking with the above situation, for step 2 it’d go like, “When you play with your brother you need to keep your hands to yourself and when your brother takes something away from you I need you to come tell me instead of hitting him.”
Step 3: Give a meaningful reason for your child to behave in the positive way
For most parents this is the hardest step. We are really good at coming up with reasons that mean something for us for our child to behave how they want them. We find ourselves saying things like, “It’ll make me happy,” or “will help mom out.” While good reason, they often don’t mean that much to your child. Instead, saying something like, “When you don’t hit your brother and come talk to me, you won’t be put into timeout for hitting.” All of the sudden your child has a reason to behave how you want.
There will be times when you’ll need to issue a consequence even as you’re finding the positive and praising your child. For example, using the above example. You’d add, “because you did hit your brother you’ll need to be in timeout for 5 minutes” to your statement.
Step 4: Give a reward (optional)
Occasionally a reward is a good way to reinforce positive behavior. Rewards don’t have to be monetary or involve food. Anything that matters to your child can be a reward. This includes extra internet time, play time with friends, or ability to choose a family activity.
Offering your family positive encouragement will have a ripple effect as you’ll start looking for the positive with everybody you come in contact with. As you become more positive, your children will follow your example and will begin praising each other, you, friends, and strangers.
Visit Smarter Parenting for games, activities and effective praise examples to help you learn this valuable skill.