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Praise with impact

11 May
Posted by:
Michael Grose

Praise certainly has its place as a parenting tool, but parents need to use it in smart ways, rather than flippantly, insincerely or excessively.

Some children, particularly boys, feel awkward receiving praise unless it is done tactfully. Boys like to blend in with the crowd. They can feel self-conscious when they are singled out in front of siblings or peers. So praise, like criticism, is better given in private, or it can be misconstrued as being manipulative and not genuine, particularly when it is simply a throw-away line.

There are three types of praise that have positive impact on children’s (as well as adults’) behaviour and self-esteem.

1. Descriptive praise: Throw a spotlight on the behaviours that kids do well. Rather than a trite ‘well done’ draw a word picture of what they did well and let them know its impact. Tell them what you see and how you feel. “Wow. You have tidied the room really well and put everything back where it should be. It’s a pleasure to come into the living room.” Such a comment genuinely made, is more likely to be stored away in a child’s memory and drawn on at a later date. Private praise is more effective than public praise for boys as they can become embarrassed being praised in front of their friends or relatives.

2. Summary praise: Give your child a positive label to live up to by summing up their positive behaviours with one word. “You really worked hard to finish your project. That’s what I call persistence.” “You cleaned up the kitchen without being told. You are a self-starter.” Persistence and self-starter become part of your children’s Internal Character Reference System. Summary praise is great for kids under the age of ten as they still use their parents as reference points. Parental impact if this type is diluted through the teenage years as peer influence has a stronger impact on self-esteem levels.

3. Self-praise: Praise is always bit more powerful when it comes from you so allow children to brag a little. “I did that well.” “I am really pleased with the way I did that.” “I did the best I could.” “I love the art I did at school today.” Teaching kids to self-praise can be a little tricky but you can start by asking them how they feel about their efforts. When you use descriptive feedback you actually show kids how to self-praise. Self-praise is great to use with kids that always want parental reassurance or approval.

Some kids need to be cued regarding self-praise -“Are you pleased with yourself because you tried your best in the game?” Encourage them to say they are pleased with themselves rather than just agree with you. This gets them in the habit of self-praise.

There are plenty of people in your child’s life who are critical of them – including their peers and maybe siblings. It is a parent’s job to tell kids what is right about them, so spend a little time telling kids what you see and how you feel when they do something well. Make up positive labels that they can add to their Internal Character Reference Systems and encourage them to brag a little when they have done something well.

The stage to do all these wonderful things as parents is before they reach teens. With kids today growing up at the speed of light this can be really challenging………..

You can find more practical confidence-building ideas in Thriving!
  • children's
  • confidence
  • praise
  • self-esteem
  • well-being
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