Some parents are worry about spoiling their child and they only make supportive comments, avoiding any statements that sound like praise. These so-called supportive comments or encouragements are actually praise, and it creates an unnecessary complication since children normally cannot differentiate the difference. This in turn, makes praise ineffective.
These are several ways which parents can maximize effectiveness in praising children:
1. Be specific, give labeled praise.
A lot of parents unknowingly give vague praise quickly in a chain, with one comment after another. For example, a parent might say, “Good job, well done, good girl, great!” Unfortunately, these comments are neither specific nor labeled and they do not describe vividly the behavior you are trying to praise. It is definitely more effective to give labeled praise that describes the specific behavior that you like. Tell your child “You are playing quietly and I like that” instead of “Good job”; “I’m pleased that you said thank you” is preferred to “Good boy”; and “Good girl for tidying up the play area” is definitely better and clearer than “Well done, girl”.
2. Praise appropriately, at the right time.
It is vital that praise be contingent on the child’s appropriate behavior. Praising a child for sharing should occur at the time when the child is actually sharing a toy with his little sister. If the children are behaving inappropriately, whatever positive aspect there might be to their behavior, it should be ignored rather than trying to give some form of praise; for example, parents should not praise a child who share her crayons with her friend when they have been using them to scribble all over the wall. Having said that, giving phony praise when a child misbehaves is also misleading and confusing. Parent should wait for the right moment when the child does something good and constructive to praise the positive behavior.
3. Show sincerity and enthusiasm when praising.
Parents can make praise more energetic and sincere with a happy tone coupled with smiles and eye contact. Praise that is conveyed in a flat and unenthusiastic voice, though repeated many times, is neither reinforcing nor effective to the child. Parents can try to use nonverbal cues to convey their enthusiasm; a smile at the child, a warm greet with your eyes, a hug, a kiss or a pat on the shoulder are all encouraging and reassuring. Some parents who are not used to praise may find it hard to say encouraging words to their children; it will sound artificial or even boring in the beginning when they try. This is alright, what these parents have to do is to praise more and more often and the genuine positive feeling will come your way. Here are a few phrases to get you started: * I like it when you… * Daddy is very proud of you for… * That’s a perfect way of… * I’m glad you are… * Look how well you’ve done… * It really pleases mommy when you…
4. Never combine praise with put-downs.
Some parents, without realizing it, give praise but contradict it by being sarcastic or combining it with a punishment. This is one of the most disruptive things a parent can do to a child. For example, a mother may say to her child, “Thanks for putting your scrap paper in the garbage and not on the table like you usually do” or “It’s great that you came to the dining table the first time I called, but next time, how about washing your hands first?” These statements all sound discouraging and it will be no surprise that you child will stop trying new behavior. Remember, when praising a child, it should be specific without reminders of prior failures or less than perfect performance.
5. Praise immediately.
Never delay your praise to hours or sometimes, even days after the positive behavior has taken place. For instance, a father may tell his daughter that he appreciated her help in washing the car a week after it occurred, this sort of ‘delayed’ praise will lose its reinforcing value with time and worst of all, it sounds artificial.Parents may argue that delayed praise is better than no praise, but research has shown that the most effective praise is that which is given within five seconds of the positive behavior. Ideally, praise your child as soon as he begins to perform the desired positive behavior and make the praise as frequent and as consistent as possible in the beginning. You can then gradually opt for intermittent praise.
The whole idea behind praise is to reinforce the positive behavior every time it occurs. Identify the behavior that you want to reinforce and be consistent with your praise. You may also find a doubling impact when you praise children in front of other adults.