I want to talk more about my favorite reinforcer: praise.
Praise Is Special!
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.
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