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Grandparenting Principles Issue 1 2 3 4 5

Offering Effective Praise

It’s easy to pay attention to your grandchildren when they’re misbehaving. After all, when they’re acting up, you immediately notice (which may be why they’re acting up in the first place). But research shows they’ll improve their behavior quicker — and be less likely to tune you out — if you also “catch them being good.”

The trick is to look for, identify and praise good behavior frequently and consistently. Unlike obvious bad behavior, you may not notice good behavior as much. This requires a little more work on your part, but trust us, it’s worth it.

For example, if your grandchild has issues with hitting or kicking, you might give praise this way when he/she uses appropriate behavior:

  • Thank you for keeping your hands and feet to yourself.
  • Thank you for using your words instead of hitting or kicking.
  • I like how you are being gentle.

Giving praise strengthens the relationship between grandchildren and grandparents because grandchildren start to recognize that their grandparents also see the positive things they do, not just the negatives. That’s why we recommend that you praise your grandchild four times for every one time you correct him/her.

Additionally, try to take note of small improvements in behaviors you have asked your grandchildren to work on. Don’t necessarily wait for a huge milestone. Instead, praise them when they make their bed or help clean up after a meal.

Over time, you can decrease your praise of specific behaviors as they become second nature for your grandchild. This is known as “fading.” As you fade your positive recognition of certain behaviors, you can find others to praise.

Delivering effective praise requires additional effort on your part as a grandparent; it means you need to be observant to “catch them being good.” It also takes time and patience. But your efforts will be rewarded as your grandchildren gradually reduce their negative behaviors and replace them with positive actions.

Teaching Activity

Building Self-Worth

To build your grandchild's sense of self-worth, try these activities when he/she is staying with your or other times you’re together:

  1. Time-In Fun: “Tip” your grandchild with lots of 5- or 10-minute “time-in” activities. Time-in is the opposite of time-out; it’s the good stuff your grandchild enjoys or likes to do. Put a token in a jar each time you give your grandchild a tip to remind you how much time-in time he/she has earned each day.
  2. Goodie Vouchers: Build your grandchild's sense of accomplishment by giving him/her age-appropriate chores, activities and learning tasks. Every time he/she accomplishes one of these, place one “goodie voucher” under your grandchild's pillow at night. These rewards don’t have to cost anything; they can be as simple as a promise of time with and attention from loved ones later
  3. Memory Mosaics: Create a gallery of good memories on the wall of the bedroom where your grandchild sleeps or in the family room where everyone can see it. Your grandchild can use photos or drawings to represent these positive memories. Update the mosaic each week with images that focus on good behavior.
  4. Love Notes: Leave a few notes (stickers, cards) of praise in places where your grandchild will find them.

Parenting Strategy

Giving Effective Praise

Giving effective praise isn’t difficult; the effort comes in trying to find something to praise amid the negative behaviors your grandchild might be displaying. You must constantly be on the lookout to catch your grandchild being good. Once you do, you can simply follow these steps:

  1. Show approval (say “Good job!” or give a hug).
  2. Describe the positive behavior.
  3. Give a reason for using the behavior.
  4. Give a positive consequence (optional).

Coming up in Issue 2

Teaching Grandchildren How to Protect Themselves


Practice Resisting Peer Pressure


Preventive Teaching

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