Power Of Praise – How to encourage positive behaviour in children and teens

What if I told you I’m going to show you how to use praise effectively? I hear some of you saying but I already use praise! Yes but read on and you will be pleased you did. First I’m going to explain why praise is one of the most effective tools in raising happy, well-balanced children. AND it’s FREE!

Next I’ll answer some questions I’m often asked by parents about praising children.

Finally I’ll demonstrate how descriptive praise will motivate your child.

Why is praising your child so important?

Praising your child is important because:

It shifts your focus so you feel and view your child more positively You demonstrate you’ve noticed and appreciate his actions It makes him feel valued and builds up his self-esteem It reinforces good behaviour because it teaches him how we want him to behave

Four FAQ relating to praise

Does praise spoil children? Children are not spoiled by praise nor do they only work for external rewards. On the contrary children who receive little or no praise become demanding or attention seeking.

Isn’t praise manipulative? The purpose of praise is to increase positive behaviour with the child’s knowledge. Everybody responds favourably to praise.

Shouldn’t I wait until his behaviour has improved before I give praise? To initiate a behaviour change a parent must first praise the smallest positive actions as this teaches a child how we want them to behave.

What should I do my child rejects praise? Some children have difficulty accepting praise because they view themselves negatively. However you can help improve their self-esteem by continuing to praise and eventually your child will enjoy being praised.

How to use descriptive praise effectively

Sometimes parents praise their children in ineffective ways. Here are four ways you can maximize your effectiveness in praising your child. Be specific, praise appropriately, demonstrate enthusiasm and avoid mixing positive praise with negative comments. Lead by example model self praise for example, ‘I did a good job redecorating the bedroom’. Children love to hear you praising them to others.

Specific or descriptive praise ‘Good boy’ or ‘well done’ is non-specific and therefore ineffective because such phrases do not describe the behaviour you are praising. It is rather more effective to say, ‘Good boy for tidying the toys away when I asked’ or ‘I’m pleased you ate all your dinner’.

Appropriate praise It is important to praise your child’s behaviour when it occurs and when the behaviour is appropriate. For example you would not praise your child for writing their name if it was written on the tablecloth. However you would praise your child for actually sharing his toys with his friend. The knack is to catch them being good, praise immediately and ignore low-level inappropriate behaviour. Praising inappropriate behaviour is confusing and misleading.

Demonstrate enthusiasm If you sound bored or look glum when offering praise it will be ineffective. Praise is reinforcing to children when it is delivered with eye contact, a smile, energy, hugs and sincerity. However if you are unused to giving praise it may sound artificial at first but if you but persevere it will soon feel genuine and natural.

Avoid giving praise and negative comments simultaneously Some people fall into the trap of giving ‘backhanded praise. For example saying ‘Thank you for singing to the baby instead of hitting her as you usually do’. This has the effect of being contradictory or feels to the child like a put down. Don’t make a sarcastic or critical remark about old inappropriate behaviours as this negates the positive reinforcement. If you sound discouraging your child will stop trying.

To sum up….. Praise increases your child’s self-esteem and confidence It helps you view your child positively Catch him being good and Praise immediately and consistently Give positive praise Praise descriptively, appropriately and enthusiastically Give eye contact, hugs, pats, kisses and smiles with praise Model self-praise

Have you noticed that effective praise is a matter of showing your child how you want them to behave? By reinforcing their behaviour whenever they share, comply with requests or use their initiative you socialise your child. It’s quite simple isn’t it?

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