Connect with Your Child Using a Simple Technique: Praise!

Man sitting with sonI want to talk more about my favorite reinforcer: praise.

Praise Is Special!
It’s FREE!
It’s abundant.
It’s easy to store.
Everybody likes it.
Like chocolate or bacon, it goes with everything!

The bottom line is that you cannot praise your kids enough. In fact, the more you praise them, the more you will see “start” behaviors!

Guidelines to Praising Effectively
Here are some tips to make your praise better:

  • Make sure you have the child’s attention. Use his or her name. If the child doesn’t know you are talking to him or her, your praise is nothing more than wasted breath. This is particularly important when dealing with children on the autism spectrum who may not even know you are there even though you are standing right next to them. Do whatever you need to do to become a part of their world before you deliver your praise statement.
  • Tell the child what he or she did. The child might not be aware of what it was that he or she did that was so great. Maybe a lot of things are happening at once. In any case, saying what you are praising helps tie your praise with the behavior you want to see again.
  • Be enthusiastic! If you deliver your praising statement in a low, monotone voice, if you come off as sarcastic, or if you give any hint to the child that you aren’t being sincere, the child will know it. Seriously, CHEER for your child. Get excited about what he or she did. Heck, be a little silly. Sell the sizzle and your child will respond more.
  • Praise IMMEDIATELY! Deliver the praise as soon as the behavior occurs. The longer you wait to praise (or deliver any reinforcement, for that matter), the less likely it is the child will connect your praise to the behavior you want to see again. Even worse, the longer you wait, the more likely your child is to do a “stop” behavior. It would be a shame to deliver a praise statement that gets tied to and reinforces a stop behavior—so don’t do that.
  • Flip the script occasionally. It’s easy to get into a rut and basically deliver your praise the same way, with the same basic wording, all the time. So, change things up often. Here’s “100-plus ways to praise a child”: http://www.speechtherapygames.com/Freebies/waystopraiseachild.pdf
  • “Thank you” is no praise. I know this seems backward; giving thanks is common courtesy. However, if “thank you” is in your praise statement, add another praise statement with it. The idea is that by saying thank you, you are hinting that the child did you a favor rather than that the child did something he or she should do all the time. It’s a little thing, but no point in undermining yourself if you don’t have to.

Here is an example of an effective praise statement, delivered immediately after a child puts away a toy he was playing with: (Enthusiastically.) “Good job, Zak! You put away the toy. I’m so very proud of you!”

So, now that we know how to praise effectively, get out there and pass it on! Remember, parents: Don’t panic … breathe … you got this.

Please comment below about ways praise has worked for you. Questions are also welcome.

© Copyright 2012 by www.GoodTherapy.org Tucson Bureau - All Rights Reserved.

Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org. The preceding article was solely written by the author name above. The view and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • lita

    December 19th, 2012 at 4:58 PM

    my 18 month old daughter loves it when I praise her.she claps for herself when she knows she has done something good and we join in, clap and I praise her.seems such a joy!there is so much to gain from smile and praise.they are truly priceless!

  • Zora L. Kolkey, MFT

    December 19th, 2012 at 7:17 PM

    I like what you said and want to add that children also need praise for “being”, not just “doing”.

  • Renee

    December 20th, 2012 at 4:14 AM

    Thanks for this!
    I praise my child a lot because I feel like she thrives on that, and yet there are those who tell me that I am spoiling her because of that.
    So?
    She’s my child and I want her to feel as worthy and special as I know that she is. How is this wrong?

  • Raphael

    December 20th, 2012 at 5:06 AM

    Everybody loves appreciation and praise.Not only does it show care and appreciation but also boosts the recipient’s morale.And for children,it sends a message that they will be praised when they do something good.It can help cultivate good habits in them and also reinforces the bond between the children and their parents.

  • tabitha

    December 20th, 2012 at 12:22 PM

    I want to stress upon the point of being genuine in your praise.Never praise just because you have to.Kids are intelligent and can tell when you fake it.Its not just the words that help the child,it is the joy that you demonstrate,its the happiness in your eyes.If a parent can do that then the child will respond favorably too and this praise can lead to improvement in behavior and activities.

  • Sherrie VandePutte

    December 27th, 2012 at 2:37 PM

    I feel that there is something much better than praise – compassionate parenting or NonViolent Communication.

    “Good girl,” or “You are so clever,” leaves a child dependent upon outward motivation as much as punishments and criticism do. It also creates a power imbalance where the parent acts as judge or evaluator. Instead of praise, we can choose to express our observations, feelings and the needs that have been met. So rather than, “Good boy, you are really so helpful,” we could say, “When I see that you have put your clothes in your cupboard, I feel happy, because I really value order and cooperation.” Children then have the pleasure of acting on the basis of their intrinsic needs including contributing to others.

  • Catina Richardsen LMHC

    March 17th, 2013 at 11:15 AM

    I agree with you Sherrie VandePutte. Based on my experience as play therapist, and as a parent, as well as what author Alfie Kohn says about “praise,” I use it sparingly, if at all. What’s more useful, from what I’ve seen, is encouragement, “you can do it,” or “look, you did it, and you’re smiling, like you’re proud of it.” I’ve seen more benefits to developing a child’s intrisic (belonging naturally; essential; contained wholly within the organ on which it acts) movitation, versus extrinsic (not forming part of or belonging to a thing : extraneous; originating from or on the outside; especially: originating outside a part and acting upon the part as a whole.) If I had to put a number ratio on it, I’d say to convey messages to a child that are 80 – 90% intrinsic and only 10-20% extrinsic. Telling a child “good” boy/girl, or I like that you did (xyz) can place value judgment on the child. Ultimately, don’t we all want children to do “good” because it makes them feel “good?”

  • Catina Richardsen LMHC

    March 17th, 2013 at 11:16 AM

    I agree with you Sherrie VandePutte. Based on my experience as play therapist, and as a parent, as well as what author Alfie Kohn says about “praise,” I use it sparingly, if at all. What’s more useful, from what I’ve seen, is encouragement, “you can do it,” or “look, you did it, and you’re smiling, like you’re proud of it.” I’ve seen more benefits to developing a child’s intrinsic (belonging naturally; essential; contained wholly within the organ on which it acts) movitation, versus extrinsic (not forming part of or belonging to a thing : extraneous; originating from or on the outside; especially: originating outside a part and acting upon the part as a whole.) If I had to put a number ratio on it, I’d say to convey messages to a child that are 80 – 90% intrinsic and only 10-20% extrinsic. Telling a child “good” boy/girl, or I like that you did (xyz) can place value judgment on the child. Ultimately, don’t we all want children to do “good” because it makes them feel “good?”

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