We all need a little praise now then. Doesn’t it feel good when your spouse thanks you for doing the laundry, or your boss says “well done” when you complete your latest project? (This is the point where you start laughing at me and say “I don’t get thanked for those things!”)
But I bet it would feel good if you did, right? What meaning would it have for you to be validated for the hard work you do, and all your attempts to complete your daily challenges?
Your child needs your validation. There are numerous reasons why praise is an important part of your parenting tool box:
- It’s a tool to guide your child to do the right thing
- Puts the focus on what she should be doing, instead of what she shouldn’t
- Builds and boosts self-esteem
- Improves your relationship with your child
- Helps you to identify strengths instead of focusing on the constant challenges
- Is more effective than parenting based off of fear and criticism
- Feels better than parenting from a place of punishment
But there are ways to do it that aren’t so effective. Keep reading below for the top 5 tips that will help you to effectively praise your child.
Tip # 1 Be specific about what you are praising
Specific praise is more powerful than a vague “good job.” For example: “I really liked how you turned off the video game when I asked and you started your homework.” When you can get specific it lets your child know you’re paying attention to the good stuff she’s doing. And believe it or not children, tweens, and teens are motivated when they know their parent is rooting for them.
Tip # 2 Keep it positive
Praise also needs to be framed positively, not negatively, so your child knows what to keep doing. I know this seems like a no-brainer but believe it or not, it’s not always done. For example: “Thank you for keeping your feet on the floor” is more effective than “Thank you for not rocking your chair backwards.” Why is that more effective? Because you are explicitly stating what the exact behavior is that you want to continue. It’s barely noticeable, but trust me, it will make a big difference.
Tip # 3 No backhanded praise
This is where you praise your child but then there’s an insult attached. For instance “Thank you for cleaning up; why can’t you do that every time I ask?” You’re venting your frustration, but this takes away the effectiveness of the praise. Your child is going to focus on the insult, and won’t even hear the praise. A better way to say that would be: “Thank you for cleaning up your room. That really means a lot to me that you helped out. Let’s come up with a plan so we can keep up your good work.” Which one would feel better to you?
Tip #4 Stay away from too much praise
Parents often ask whether they can praise children too much. Yes you can. Overpraising does exist, so focus on praising the behaviors she really struggles with, and hone in on what you want to see differently. For instance you might want to focus on:
- kind, respectful words
- a calm body
- plays well with siblings
- does chores
- follows your directions
- being kind to others
- completes homework in a timely manner
Pick 1-2 areas you want to see change. I know, I know, there’s at least 8 or 9, but you don’t want to overwhelm your child, or burn yourself out either.
Tip #5 Vary your praise phrases
Praise can be said in a variety of ways. It shouldn’t be robotic. Praise phrases can start with:
- I love how you…
- I like the way you…
- I noticed that you did…..Great work!
- That makes me happy when you….
- I’m proud that….
- Thank you for…….That was a big help.
Bottom line: Your child is used to always being called out on all the stuff she does wrong. Catch her being good! There are numerous benefits for your kid, plus it will feel better for you than always seeing the negative. Be specific, positive, and don’t attach to it a snarky comment, no matter how tempting. Focus on one or two behaviors you want to see changed. And then start praising. It’s that easy!
Please comment below: How does your child respond to praise? What tips do you have for other parents on how to praise the right way?
Jenmarie Eadie is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who is passionate about helping children to become less stressed by giving them and their parents tools, support and encouragement. She received her Master’s in Social Work from Arizona State with a dual concentration in Children, Youth, and Families; and Behavioral Health. Her proudest accomplishment is following her dream of opening up a practice that is designed to focus on the whole family. She currently serves families in Southern California.