How to praise your kids? You may be thinking that praising your kids comes naturally and easily. You may feel like you do it all the time and certainly don’t need a “how to” lesson. But I’d like to ask you to be open to the fact that there is a difference between generic praise and specific praise, and that one is more impactful than the other.
This is the praise that comes without thought and it comes almost out of habit or reaction. Sometimes we praise this way because we want to build our kids up and think that constantly gushing over them is the way to strengthen their self-esteem.
The problem with generic praise is that when it’s done too often and without much specificity, your child can become almost immune to it. Yes, it’s true that kids should have more positive input than negative from parents, but that does mean that constant is needed.
“If you praise too much, you will lose credibility,” says Shari Kuchenbecker, a psychologist and child development consultant. “You can only say ‘good job’ or ‘I love that picture’ so many times before the words don’t mean anything. And make sure that the action merits praise; children can tell the difference between hollow praise and the real thing, says Kuchenbecker, and they don’t need compliments for every little thing.” (How to Praise Your Children)
Instead of simply saying, “You’re amazing,” work on being more specific about what your child did that deserves a positive comment. You might say, “Putting your toys away without me asking was very helpful. I appreciate that.”
It’s important to notice when your child is doing something helpful or nice to let them know how you feel. That’s how you reinforce good behavior. I might add, though, that you do not need to praise them for every little thing they do right. Too much praise can dilute the impact of heartfelt and needed praise.
I talk to parents a lot about using too many words in their parenting. Sometimes it’s just best to keep things simple and clear. When you are giving instructions. When you are disciplining. When you are praising. Your child tunes you out after a few seconds anyway, so the less words you use when getting an important message across the better.
Be Creative in Your Praise
Kids flourish when given positive words. When kind words are accompanied by a loving look or tone of voice, your child will feel loved and that leads to feeling secure which leads to a feeling of self-esteem .If you are looking for some ways to praise creatively, here are some suggestions.
Here are a few more praising guidelines:
Focus on effort, not on results. Notice how hard they worked to clean their room, not on the less-than-perfect outcome. Notice how they did their best in their soccer game, now how many goals they scored.
Connect with them when praising. Look them in the eyes; give them your full attention. This communicates the sincerity of your comments.
Praise should nurture a child’s inner motivation.
If your child becomes used to praise that focuses only on external approval, they will simply become people pleasers. Focus on teaching your child to be self-motivated. We want them to learn to work hard because it is personally satisfying for them, not just to hear words of praise from Mom and Dad.
Praise that is given at the right time, with the right specificity, and the right focus can help grow a child’s inner motivation. In other words, be picky about your praise, but don’t be stingy.
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