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Parenting Tips: 5 Tips for Praising Your Child


When people think of discipline, they typically think of a punishment for unwanted behavior. A child acts in a way that is inappropriate or improper, and the parent uses a technique to correct that action. Timeout, removing privileges and restricting activities are common disciplinary strategies.

Praise and positive reinforcement can also be powerful tools in shaping a child. Constructive feedback can guide a child toward self-regulation, and words of affirmation can inspire the child toward more desired character traits. But empty praise can be useless, and in some cases even do more harm than benefit.

Here are five tips for offering praise that builds a child’s self-confidence and identity:

  1.  Offer specific praise. Rather than saying, “You’re a great baseball player,” say, “You ran really fast when you hit the ball out there.” Instead of “You’re so smart,” say, “That’s great how you figured out how to solve that math problem.” Offering global-type praise can actually create anxiety in some children when they don’t know what they are being praised for.
  2.  Praise effort, not results. “You worked really hard on this homework assignment.” “I can tell you’ve been practicing that new piano piece assigned by your teacher.” Perfection is a goal that cannot be consistently met, so be wary about praising straight As or a tune without mistakes. Praising the effort encourages initiative, resiliency, and sticking-to-it.
  3.  Be sure to notice the intangibles. Offer praise that calls attention to the child’s character, not just her actions. “It was very kind of you to push that child on the swing.” “You were generous to share your toys with your brother.” “Thanks for putting your laundry away without me asking; that’s being responsible.” Think of the character traits you want to help your child develop, then look for instances to offer encouragement when your child displays those traits.
  4.  Focus on quality rather than quantity. When children are praised for every little thing they do, they become praise junkies, unsure how to proceed without constant validation to feel good about themselves. Inflated praise becomes meaningless. A few well-chosen words of affirmation are more productive and endearing than a steady stream of “Good job!”
  5.  Direct them toward self-approval. When your child shows you a painting she did in art class and asks, “Do you like my painting?” ask her, “What do you like about it?” When your child comes running off the soccer field to say, “How’d I do?” ask him how does he think he did. Teach kids to find worth in their own evaluation, not always in the evaluation of others.

God loves us for who we are, not what we do. Use your words to affirm that same unconditional love and acceptance to your child.

Diane Hood, America World AdoptionThis article was written by Diane Hood, Clinical Supervisor with America World Adoption, and the Director of Social Services in our Georgia office. Diane has more than 20 years experience in the adoption field and she is a parent by birth and by adoption.

ACT (Adoption Coaching and Training) is a ministry of America World Adoption designed to support families through training, support groups, and individualized coaching. Explore ACT services, and reach out to us today for a free consultation to make a plan to meet your needs.

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