Praise is a powerful parenting tool

Parents can use praise as an effective way to encourage children to behave.

Praise can be one of a parent’s most powerful'' tools for getting children to behave. It is like dropping a positive pebble in your child’s developmental pond. Children who receive more praise feel better about who they are and what they can do. Children who have a high self-esteem tend to do better in school, treat themselves and others better.

Parents are responsible for correcting their child’s negative behavior, but should keep these ideas in mind as they praise them for the good they do:

  • An Easy Fix: Praise more often, get better results. So why don’t parents use it more often? It might be because as a parent we focus on managing our child’s behavior by paying attention to the things we don’t want them to do. One word commands come to a parent quickly, “Stop!” “Don’t!” “No!” Of course parents need to correct negative behaviors that harm or have the potential for harming themselves, others, pets, property, etc.
  • Don’t Rock the Boat: Often we tend to overlook the times when they are doing exactly what we want to see more of. For example, when children are playing quietly, sharing and being friendly we don’t want to break the magic by interrupting, even with praise. The problem is that children end up getting more attention for misbehaving than behaving. Kids like and need attention and they will repeat any behaviors that get them what they need.
  • Praise the Process not Perfection: Notice nice behaviors as they happen and the sooner the better - within five seconds is best. Don’t take good behavior for granted. Nobody’s perfect. A child’s job is to learn how to behave, follow rules, get along with others, share, listen to their parents and be responsible for their actions – a parent’s job is to guide them along the way, so be generous with your praise and encouragement at each step along the process.
  • Great! But… : Avoid mixing praise with put downs. “Thanks for coming to dinner on time, but next time wash your hands.”This sends a mixed message. Children will tend to avoid behaviors that earn them confusing messages of good feelings and bad.
  • Don’t Fake It: Be genuine. Make your words match your body language. Smile, make eye contact, give a thumbs up, say the child’s name and of course add in some hugs and kisses whenever possible. Be specific and say exactly the behavior you liked. It helps to let children know what you really expect of them. “I am so proud of how you are sharing your cars with your friend.”
  • Show and Tell: Be a model for self-praise. Praise yourself out loud in front of the children for something you did. “I am so proud of myself for cooking this delicious dinner!” Teach children how to self-praise by giving them the words to describe their good feelings. “You must feel so proud of the job you did cleaning your room!”
  • Just Imagine: Parents of especially challenging children can sometimes feel overwhelmed and discouraged. That alone can make it difficult to notice a child’s positive behaviors. Come up with a list of things you really like about your child, and think about what you would like to see less of (hitting, yelling, talking back). Picture in your mind your child doing the exact opposite of those negative behaviors (keeping their hands to themselves, using calm words, listening to you). Now treat you child like they are already capable of behaving that way.

In conclusion, it is important to remember that children will live up to our expectations, so paint a positive picture. Always look for ways to encourage and praise what you want them to do. Be a positive behavior model.They will feel better about themselves, and you will find you feel better about being a parent!

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