Constructive praise – when and how to praise children?
Praise and compliments are quite obvious to us. We all know that everyone likes to be praised. When it comes to children, we often say: “Beautiful!”, “It’s good you’re learning!”, “Very nice!”, etc. But does this type of praise bring anything valuable into a child’s life?
As one well-known American psychologist says: “There is no value-judgment more important to man – no factor more decisive in his psychological development and motivation – than the estimate he passes on himself. […] The nature of his self-evaluation has profound effects on a man’s thinking processes, emotions, desires, values and goals. It is the single most significant key to his behavior” ( Nathaniel Branden The Psychology of Self Esteem). So if a child’s self-evaluation seems to be this important, what should parents do to help shape it? This is where the constructive praise comes into play as a factor that helps building a positive and realistic view of oneself. Such a form of praise requires describing a specific activity or state in a way that allows children to conclude that they should feel proud, which – in turn – means they can be the ones who praise themselves. In short, the constructive praise consists of two elements:
-1-An adult appreciatively describes what they see or feel
-2-After hearing that, a child can praise himself
To understand how to praise children, let’s look at some practical examples:
This type of praise makes it so that children become aware of their abilities and start to value themselves more. Of course, this method requires a little more effort from us because we have to think about and describe in detail what we want to praise, but it’s far more attractive and genuine for the receiver. It shows our interests. Indeed, it’s much easier to sum something up with one word or a short phrase, such as “Great”, “Beautiful drawing”, “Super”, and it doesn’t mean we should completely avoid those – for example, when a child comes over to show her tenth drawing in a row. In certain situations, it’s important to find proper word/s that will tell children something new about them, and make them look at themselves differently. Moments when children’s good behaviours get validated turn into life experiences. Children will be able to come back to them in crisis situations, times of doubt and discouragement. They’ll remember that they have done something in the past that they were proud of.
When to use praise? Few things to keep in mind:
● Praise encourages children to try again and try harder. Remember that a child will repeat the behaviour you describe, so use it selectively.
● In situations when a child should not be praised, and in fact – when you want to criticize him, for example, when he lost an expensive phone, you might start the conversation with a descriptive praise related to a past behaviour: “Chris, you’ve had that phone for two years and you had never lost it before. And you bring it to school, trips, football practice. How did it happen?”
● Avoid such praise that hides a previous failure, a child’s weakness: “So, you’ve finally written that exam the way you should have”.
● Let’s praise our children’s good behaviours more often, even those that are simply correct. Kids have a huge need for being noticed – by praising little things, we consolidate them within children.
● Let’s praise giving up negative behaviours to motivate a child to change.
● Adjust your praises to your child’s age and perception.
● Always avoid the word “BUT” which indicates that something else still requires improvement and therefore ruins the entire praise, for example: “I’m glad you’ve cleaned your room, but it’s too bad there are crayons still scattered on the desk”.
This article has been written based on Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish’s book How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk.
Image source: https://pixabay.com/pl/