Parents sometimes forget how many different ways we can teach our children new things. While this blog covers #1 verbal praise, there are many tools in the parenting toolbox:
Okay, the vocabulary may be new to you, but not its content. Many parents use techniques without knowing what behavioral scientists call it. In the next few blogs, I'll cover the lists (above & below).
- Other tools in the world of psychology include the following techniques and tools plus a few unique approaches:
- Verbal prompt
- Gestural prompt
- Physical prompt
- Token Economy
- Reality-based Statements
- Complex Guidelines
If you want to strengthen a good behavior, then use positive reinforcement, which is defined as adding something to motivate your child and increase the likelihood they'll repeat that behavior.
Examples include these 10 approaches listed above.
What are the best ways to use praise?
- Be specific.
- Be genuine.
- Recognize effort.
- Praise the behavior, not the child.
- Show trust in your child's decisions.
- Accept your child for what he is, not for what he does.
Do say, Your room looks great. It looks like you worked hard.
Don't say, You're such a good boy for cleaning your toy-box/room. This gives a double message. Is your son not a good person when his room is dirty? That's a more typical scenario. Value your son, not his behaviors.
When my kids were growing up, they knew there were two standards:
At our house, we had 1) Mom-clean and 2) Grandma-clean standards. When grandma was visiting, the children saw me go to town and clean the entire house. My mom is half German. She grew up scrubbing the concrete surfaces on the front porch weekly. So they knew to Grandma-clean their rooms. Other times, if I had friends or family over, they'd ask me, Does my room have to be Grandma-clean?
Boy, were they relieved if I told them, No, just Mom-clean. I seriously don't remember them complaining too much before my mom's visits. Frankly, as a single parent of two children for over ten years, I had other priorities that occupied my brain. I am proud of myself now...because I keep my condo clean...really I do! :)
Only give praise when it's genuine and deserved. Otherwise, it leads to false confidence or arrogance. By praising a specific behavior, you call attention to your child's strengths. You indicate he/she has made a good decision. This builds self-confidence.
You decided to do an extra nice job cleaning your room today. Good decision. These words allow your child to value himself. While it's fine for children to want to please their parents, it's actually more important they work hard for themselves.
Instead of saying, I'm proud of you. Say, You can be proud of yourself. Or You should feel so proud inside right now. Nice job. Well done, sweetie.
In this way, your children internalize the message rather than relying on an external force for reinforcement. In short, your child develops higher self-esteem when they can measure skills & accomplishments by their own standards.