Praise is a powerful parental tool.
Aside from its usual role- letting your kids know they are on the right track and making them feel good- praise can also be used to help your child develop RESILIENCE.
Human beings are a bit like icebergs, you only get to see a fraction of who we really are: our behaviour.
And when we talk about our kids being resilient, what we really mean is that we want them to behave in a resilient manner.
But as you can see below, behaviour is only the visible manifestation of what is happening below the surface.
So if you want to help your child to be resilient, you need to help them develop the areas that contribute to their behaviour. And just like the iceberg, it's the bits that you can't see that matter most.
Looking at the diagram, if you want to have the most impact it makes sense to start with the deepest part, the bit that drives every other part of the behaviour iceberg: identity.
But you can't just tell your child that they are RESILIENT, they won't believe you without evidence.
This is where PRAISE comes in.
Praising your child when they behave resiliently helps them to gather the evidence they need to see themselves as a resilient person- see the feedback loop in the diagram.
what to praise - exactly?
You can't just praise any random old thing either, you need a framework, something (preferably) scientifically robust that will help you to produce the results that you want, namely a resilient child.
So for this we use the the VIA Institute's 24 Character Strengths.
Research has shown that these 24 strengths are universal, they are the building blocks of our identity.
We all use them (to greater or lesser degrees) and it is your unique blend of these strengths that helps to make you, you.
It's because they form our identity that we use them as the framework to praise our kids for their resilience.
It's the perfect behaviour/ identity feedback loop.
which strengths do you praise?
Of the 24 universal strengths we have identified 6 that are essential to resilience:
ZEST, HOPE, SELF-REGULATION, CREATIVITY, BRAVERY & PERSEVERANCE.
Developing these 6 strengths will give your child the ability to deal with whatever comes their way on the path of life.
how these strengths help develop resilience
The path of life diagram above describes any journey your child will take.
To get good grades, have good relationships, to get a good job, to be successful, they will face many challenges and obstacles, they are going to have to deal with failure and overcome setbacks.
how to praise
We've based our 3-step praising method on the work of the brilliant Dr. Alan E. Kazdin, PhD, ABPP.
- 1You praise the specific ACTION or BEHAVIOUR.
- 2You link their ACTION of BEHAVIOUR to one of the 6 RESILIENCE character strengths
- 3You celebrate- preferably with a physical touch to reinforce the praise (high-five, hug, pat on the back etc...).
Here's an example.
- 1"Hey, I'm impressed with how you didn't give up there."
- 2"You really showed your strength of PERSEVERANCE."
- 3"Well done!" And then high five.
some praise do's
some praise don't's
To introduce you and your child to the world of praise and character strengths, we have a 7 day challenge for you.
It will help you both to recognise resilient behaviour and to begin to make the connection between behaviour and identity.
You can focus on one RESILIENCE character strength each day, or just go through the list at the end of the day and see which behaviour your child has exhibited.
Remember to praise them as well.
Once the week is over, you can use the list to help you in spotting when your child behaves resiliently.