Why is praise so important?
6 Top Tips for praising your child
Praise is incredibly important for building a child’s self-esteem. Praise is positive feedback from a person of significance (e.g. parents, teachers) that tells the child that it has done something well. This translates to the child learning that they can affect change and influence their environment. In turn this enables the child to think positively and confidently about their abilities and themselves.
Praise is a natural, non-materialistic reward increasing the likelihood of a behaviour to be repeated in the future. Also known as positive reinforcement. (Positive reinforcement: Adding positive stimulus — the praise — leads to an increase in behaviour).
Vice versa, if a desirable behaviour isn’t acknowledged and praised because the person of significance takes the behaviour for granted, the lack of praise can be a form of so called negative punishment. (Negative Punishment: Removal of a positive stimulus — the praise — leads to a decrease of behaviour).
So what are the top tips for making the positive reinforcement of praise as natural and effective as possible to support your child?
Try and praise your child as close as possible to the action. Especially, for younger children or children with a diagnosis of ADHD timely praise is important.
You will know this from your own experiences. The best praise is authentic and truthful praise. This will also help you not to exaggerate the praise. At the same time if your praise is always genuine you can never praise enough.
Praise only — no “but” or invalidations
If you praise includes a negative add-on or a “but” it invalidates the praise and will have the opposite effect. Avoid sentences like,
- “Oh my you received a good grade. I would have never thought you could do this.”
- “Finally you’re behaving. I knew you could do it.”
- “Well done! But if you want to be as good as your sibling you still need to improve.”
- “Good work with the English test. But all the other subjects need some serious work. So don’t get too comfortable.”
Let your child know exactly what they did well. For example,
- “It was great to see you and your sister have a good time when you played together.”
- “Well done for tidying your room. It looks great.”
(This will not always be feasible or necessary. It will depend on the individual situation if you can describe specifically.)
Finally, there are many different ways of praising. It doesn’t always have to be with words only. For some children it may be difficult to accept the praise initially. Try hugging your child after they have achieved something or maybe after they have completed a chore. In such cases you can also praise by saying a truthful “Thank you.”.
Other ways of praising non-verbally include,
- an encouraging wink 😉
- a proud smile 😃
- an excited high five 🙏🏼
- an acknowledging thumbs up 👍🏼
- a pat on the back
- clapping 👏🏿
- celebrating together 🙌🏾
I hope this is helpful.
Please feel free to contact me should you have any questions or wish to discuss some aspects further.
Lukas Dressler (he/him)
Integrative Psychotherapist (MBACP)
for Children and Young People