how to: praise your child effectively
Praise is a powerful weapon to have in your parental armoury.
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'.
Praise is a brilliant little way to give your kids positive feedback, let them know they are on the right track, and make them feel good about themselves too.
It is an essential parenting tool, but used in the wrong way, it can do more harm than good.
A common mistake is to overpraise in an attempt to build self-esteem, unfortunately praise dished out for any old 'achievement' has the exact opposite effect.
But before we show you how to praise your kids properly, you need to know what to praise them for.
Through praise our objective is to help our kids build genuine self-esteem, self-belief, and confidence in their ability.
How do we do that?
Thankfully, this research has already been done for us.
We use the VIA Institute's 24 Character Strengths as our praise framework.
Each of us possesses these 24 strengths and we use them all to greater or lesser degrees.
Research shows that people who know and use their character strengths are happier, healthier, less stressed, have better relationships, are more confident, and feel more fulfilled.
An impressive list of benefits which we will happily accept, however we praise using character strengths for a different reason.
Character strengths are the building blocks of identity, it is your unique blend of these strengths that helps to make you, you.
And, it's precisely because they reflect our personal identity that we use them as the framework to praise our kids.
Identity: what you believe about yourself and what you are capable of, is what ultimately drives your behaviour. (see Iceberg diagram)
For example, if you believe that you are someone who PERSEVERES, you probably work hard, are good at overcoming obstacles, and you will usually finish what you start.
This behaviour provides you with evidence to support the belief that you are someone who PERSEVERES. And, the more evidence you have the stronger your belief.
This last bit is key and is where you can really help.
For your kids to have a genuine, strong belief in themselves and their ability, that belief needs to be backed up by evidence.
Begin praising your child using their strengths, and you help them to collect the evidence that shapes their identity.
We've taken our praising method from the brilliant Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP.
Here is a great video of him explaining how to use praise to help kids modify their behaviour.
Below we show you an example of how we use Dr. Kazdin's praise method to praise for character strengths:
In more detail:
Dr. Kazdin offers some advice on praising more effectively:
Dr. Kazdin also offers some advice on what not to do:
We would add:
Dr. Kazdin's praise method is a brilliant tool and can be used to modify any aspect of your child's behaviour.
When I combined his method with praising character strengths I noticed some additional benefits.
Previously my default parenting mode was set to: parenting by correcting my kids' mistakes- which made me feel like Mr Grumpy, and wasn't terribly effective (the kids weren't too enamoured with it either, funnily enough!).
Instead, looking for what my kids were doing right instead of wrong changed the whole family dynamic:
I urge you to give it a try.
Take a different strength each day and look for the good in your child.
If you haven't already, we strongly recommend that you and your child take the free VIA CHARACTER STRENGTH survey. It will give you the framework, not only to praise well, but also to be a more positive parent in general.
Be sure to subscribe to our FREE weekly email, packed full of articles, activities, tools, printables and challenges designed to help your kids develop key life skills.
Sign up below and you'll also get instant access to our Life Skill Report that will help your child develop their character strengths.