When you attend to and acknowledge your child for their efforts and accomplishments, your child will feel good about him or herself because you are focusing on their strengths. Using praise improves relationships between adults and children and increases children’s self-esteem. There are effective ways to this, and based on the psychological effects of how praise is received by children, here are 3 tips on the best ways to praise your child:
1) Be specific
Praise works best when you specifically describe the thing for which your child is being acknowledged. For example, it’s better to say “Great job – you worked hard picking up the toys!” than saying “Great job!”
It is best to praise children by focusing on the behavior rather than the person. For example, saying “I’m proud of you for tasting those carrots” puts the emphasis on the behavior (tasting a new food) whereas saying “you are a good girl for tasting those carrots” puts the emphasis on the child (being a good person). This may seem subtle, but we do not want children to think they are “good” or “bad” because of the behavior they display. We do want children to know what behaviors we expect from them and praising their positive actions accomplishes that.
2) Be sincere
When your child does something that makes you happy or proud of him let him know by acknowledging the thing he did that made you proud. When praise is genuine and sincere, you should use it liberally. It increases children’s motivation and their self-esteem. And no, you don’t need to worry about this kind of praise “going to his head”.
Related, be careful not to give backhanded praise. It can be easy to unintentionally criticize your child while praising them. For example, “Great job picking up your toys, except you put the blocks in the wrong bin.” The second half of the statement is not needed and deflates the praise you just gave.
3) Praise effort and persistence rather than ease and perfection
Recent research shows that praising children for their effort, practice and improvement increases their motivation and persistence. Children who were praised for these attributes were more likely to persist when the “going got tough” and the task got harder. In contrast, praising children for being perfect, smart, or completing a task with ease decreased their motivation and persistence as the task became more difficult.
Want to learn more? Here are some great articles that talk more about praise: