Praise is a normal part of life for many but we must not take it for granted. Some children and adults are very rarely praised. Praise has a huge impact on behaviour. The more positive praise we get the more likely we are to have high self-esteem resulting in positive behaviours.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind when giving praise:
- 1. Praise each step your child takes in trying to achieve something. It does not have to be something big. Just comment and praise on a piece of work such as a jigsaw puzzle.
- Praise is better delivered in short phrases and is best delivered without any conditions. For example: “You are really kind sharing your sweets with your sister, why can’t you that all the time.” By adding on the extra bit you undo the good of the praise.
- Praise the small things, they are the things your child is doing every day. That is where the difference will be made.
- If your child rejects praise then you may need to explore why they are doing this. Have you being giving praise with conditions so they may feel criticised? Children and adults who are not comfortable with praise usually have low self-esteem. This may be an area you need to explore.
- If your child is not used to being praised they may be puzzled but also delighted. However, they may worry you have some other motive. Assure them you don’t. Tell them you are going to notice their efforts from now on and praise them.
- Think of the last time you were praised, by anyone! How did it feel for you? Children have the same range of feelings as adults but mostly they need support to understand how they feel. Try to help them understand their feelings.
- Are you comfortable giving praise? Within Irish culture there is a strong belief that self praise is no praise. This is not true. Children need to be supported to identify when they have done well. They need to be encouraged to feel proud of their achievements. Remember no matter how small they are. For example: “Wow you are so clever sitting on your potty.”
- Catch your child being good! Many parents find it much easier to list what their child does wrong and what they feel may need to be ‘fixed’. Children are perfect just as they are; they do however need support to understand life and the role they play within their family and community.
- Many parents can make up to forty demands of a child in a thirty minute block of time. How many praise statements do you make in the same block of time? If we are asking children to carry out endless tasks are we also noticing how well they do?
- Be very specific in your praise. Name exactly the behaviour you liked. Children will then learn that they will be praised for specific actions rather than not being sure of what they did well. Statements such as “you are a good girl” really does not tell a child anything. Telling them they are so good at sharing or so good at helping is much more useful. They know then these actions get positive rewards.
This ’10 Ways to’ article is by One Family’s Director of Children & Parenting Services, Geraldine Kelly, as part of our weekly ’10 Ways to’ series of parenting tips. You can read the full series here.
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