Using Praise To Improve Behavior

Praising Your Child

By Kelly Guidry, LPC-S

Have you ever gotten feedback to the tune of “good job”, “great work”, or “awesome”?  Did you think to yourself, good job for what? Great work at what? Awesome for what?

All too often we are quick to dish out generic compliments, and by all means there isn’t anything wrong with this.  However, if you are confused by generic, positive feedback, how do you think your kid feels?

Sit back, close your eyes, and think about the last interaction with your child.  Were you giving positive feedback? Asking them to do something? Playing with them?  Disciplining them?

Now with your eyes closed again, think about the last time you gave them praise that was unsolicited, specific, and genuine.  The last time you told them how proud you were that they were listening so well. Or that you are so excited and love that you have the chance to play with them.

Praising children for the behaviors that  you want them to do is something that is often missing in daily interaction between a child and parent.  More often than not in public places I see parents who are busy redirecting misbehavior or asking their kids all kinds of questions.  It is a rare occasion that I get to hear a parent give very specific praise about what their child is doing well.

Specific praise goes above and beyond the generic “good jobs” and “well dones.”  Specific praise identifies a specific behavior that you wish your child would do more of.  For instance, if your child typically dawdles in the morning getting dressed, but one random Tuesday they pop up, put their clothes on and are ready to go, then it is time to abundantly acknowledge and praise that behavior.  Saying things like “you were like speedy Gonzales getting ready today, I’m so proud of you, you listened to me and you got dressed so quickly! I love it when you work on getting dressed so fast in the mornings, thank you so much for doing that as fast as you could.”  While that statement can seem above and beyond, specific praise will draw attention to those behaviors that you want more of and you will enjoy seeing your child’s eyes light up when you are able to give them such positive feedback.

The next time you find yourself wanting to correct a negative behavior, try instead to ignore it and pay attention to, acknowledge, and praise a positive behavior that your child does.  Praisable behaviors:

  • Great job keeping your hands to yourself!
  • You are so creative, I love playing with you.
  • Wow, you did such an amazing job using your inside voice!
  • Thank you for sitting in your chair with your feet on the floor.
  • I’m so proud that you were able to use your walking feet.

Remember parents, our kids don’t come with a manual, you are doing a great job at being the best parent you can every single day!  

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