Praising Your Child
For many parents, correcting comes more naturally than praising does. Correcting has its own place, but praising outstanding behaviour can prompt children to choose to do the right thing frequently. With a little effort, you can find exceptional things to praise your child for. Here are some pointers on how loving parents can praise a child:
1. Be Descriptive in Your Praise
2. Notice Your Child’s Efforts
Positive reinforcement such as praising should focus on the child’s efforts and not the results. Instead of telling your teenager who is learning how to drive, “You are such a perfect driver,” you could say, “Wow! You really are keen about learning how to drive well.” When you focus on the efforts instead of the results, the child will not feel the need to expect praises all the time for anything she does. Instead, she will feel prompted to focus her energies in something she is passionate about and to do it well without expecting praises.
3. Ditch the Sarcasm
It is important that you mean your praises. Being sarcastic with your child may not be humorous to him; in fact, he may feel injured and not valued for his efforts. If your seven year old cleaned the table after dinner, take notice of this and say, “Thanks for clearing up the table Mary, well done.” Even if she did not wipe the table elaborately, do not tarnish your praise for her efforts by adding “though it’s a pity that you did not clean the table properly.” Such sarcastic comments simply discount your praise and they will leave your child feeling that nothing she does matters to you. Just praise her and stop at it.
4. Get Real
Being honest in your praises is also very important in nurturing a sense of capability in your child. If you praise your child for something he did not do right, you are confusing him about what is capable of doing. Honesty does not mean uttering scathing remarks about your child’s capabilities. It means noticing his efforts and perhaps showing him how to improve on something. When your child makes a poor drawing of a lion, do not say “Wow! John what a great artist you are.” Instead, you could say, “John! Your drawing skills are improving. Here, the lion’s mane will look better this way.”
5. Timing is Everything
Do not fall into the trap of over-praising your child. Over-praising your child is as detrimental as criticism; it could push her to focus on competition and praise instead of just doing something because it feels good or it is the right thing to do. The author of Praising Boys Well and Praising Girls Well, Elizabeth Hartley, asserts that praising is more about quality and less about quantity. Don’t praise your child all the time. Praise him at those times when he has done something exceptional, like when he volunteers to work at the pet shelter, when she helps to clean the car or when she chooses to finally read instead of watching TV. Giving her just the right the amount of praise at the right time leaves your child feeling proud of herself.