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A Job Well Done!

​Everyone appreciates receiving praise. For children, it's the key to healthy emotions. Praise is also a powerful motivator. Unfortunately, despite all of its positive qualities, praise is not used as often as it should be, especially by parents.

If you consistently use praise with your children, you can expect dramatic improvements in their behavior over time. When you zero in on as many positive things as you can, your kids will feel better about themselves. The positive attention also makes them feel cared for and loved.

But is there such a thing as too much praise? And is any praise good praise?

The award-winning book Common Sense Parenting describes a concept called Effective Praise. Effective Praise is more powerful than general praise, which is usually a simple comment such as "Fantastic" or "Great".

Effective Praise involves three steps:

  1. Showing your approval
  2. Describing the positive
  3. Giving a reason

Step 1 involves using words and actions to express your satisfaction. For example, saying "Amazing! while giving your child a thumbs-up or a hug adds excitement to the moment. You are showing how pleased you are with what your child is doing. In turn, your child becomes more satisfied with himself or herself.

Step 2 involves making sure your child understands exactly what he or she did to deserve your praise. Praise what you saw or heard. This will motivate your child to repeat the behavior. For example, you could say, "Sarah, thanks for cleaning the dishes and helping me put the leftovers away." Comments that are brief and to the point help with understanding.

Step 3 involves linking the relationship between the child's behavior and the consequences or outcomes. Here are a couple of examples:

  • "If you do your homework right after school, you'll have more time to play outside."
  • "When you're home on time, I will trust you more and probably will let you go out more often."

When you do all three steps of Effective Praise, it should sound something like this:

Showing your approval  
"Thanks for calling me."

Describing the positive  
"I'm really glad that you told me where you're at and why you'll be a little late."

Giving a reason  
"Calling me shows a lot of sensitivity and shows that I can trust you."

You may want to add a fourth step for exceptional behavior - a reward. Rewards can be large or small, that's up to you. Rewards don't have to cost money. Just giving your child a special privilege can be reward enough.