how to :

use praise to help your child develop their

resilience, confidence and self-belief

Used correctly, praise can motivate your child to develop the resources they need to thrive, but as the song goes, 'It ain't what you do it's the way that you do it, and that's what gets results'.

what we praise our kids for

We don't just praise for any old achievement- this can backfire as we'll explain later- instead we praise in a targeted and specific way using the VIA Institute's 24 Character Strengths as our framework.

what are character strengths?

Over many years of research, scientists discovered 24 traits that human beings share: called CHARACTER STRENGTHS.
These 24 strengths are UNIVERSAL, which means that we all have them- regardless of our age, where we live, where we were born, or our gender. 
These 24 strengths are the building blocks of who you are as a person, and your blend of these strengths is as unique as your fingerprint, essentially it's what makes you, you.

why we use them to praise

It's precisely because they reflect our personal identity that we use them as the framework to praise our kids.

What you believe about yourself and what you are capable of is what ultimately drives your behaviour.

Praise your child using their strengths, and you help them to collect the evidence that shapes their identity.

how to praise*

A 3-step process.

  • 1
    Praise enthusiasticallynaming the specific CHARACTER STRENGTH . 
  • 2
    SPECIFICALLY tell them what the praise is for. 
  • 3
    Enhance the message with ENTHUSIASTIC sign-off and a nonverbal flourish.

*We've based how we praise on Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP method of praising-here is a great video of him in action. 

an example

  • 1
    "WELL DONE!  You really showed your strength of PERSEVERANCE there."   
  • 2
    "I'm impressed, you really stuck with it until you finished even though it was a really tricky problem to solve." 
  • 3
    "Great work... HIGH FIVE!"

how to praise: some do's

Dr. Kazdin offers some advice on praising more effectively:

  • 1
    Praise as close to the event happening as possible, the uplifting effects of praise have a short half-life.
  • 2
    Be enthusiastic, smile, use your voice tone and gestures to indicate they've done a great job, this tells your child you mean what you say.
  • 3
    The nonverbal ending helps to emphasise the message: high five, pat/ kiss on the head, kiss, hug, whatever is comfortable and appropriate.

how to praise: some don'ts

Dr. Kazdin also offers some advice on what not to do:

  • 1
    Don't praise the person: "You are such a GOOD BOY/ GIRL." - this can make your child feel that they are only "good", when they do something you praise them for.  
  • 2
    Don't link your LOVE or HAPPINESS to the praise: "Well done, Daddy loves you so much for doing this and it makes me very HAPPY ." - you love your child because they are your child not because of the things they do, praising in this way, you risk training your child to do things to please you.  
  • 3
    No caveats at the end: "Well done, for doing X... why can't you always be like that?" This is a no-no, it completely negates the praise you've just given.

We would add:

  • 1
    Never say that your child is"amazing", "beautiful", "clever", or"talented", when you praise. You're their parent and of course you think this, however these traits are highly subjective and can build false self-esteem. 
  • 2
    Never praise the outcome, results are not controllable, effort and process are. Praise contingent upon a successful outcome is a surefire way to raise a lifelong people-pleaser.

the benefits of praising this way

  • it helps you to be a more positive parent because you begin to looking for the positive in your child
  • your kids begin to see themselves in a more positive light- through the lens of their strengths 
  • they also begin to see themselves as resourceful- they have these internal resources they can use when they need them

7 day challenge

This way of parenting takes a little bit of getting used to, so here is a 7 day challenge that will help you to focus your praise on the key strengths of RESILIENCE.

next steps

If you haven't already, we recommend that you and your child take the CHARACTER STRENGTH survey. 

want to help your kid(s) develop their character strengths?

Why not try the first 3 modules of our BEST ME program for FREE?

Designed specifically to help kids to develop the qualities needed to be successful: confidence, resilience and self-belief, using their character strengths.