Children hear a lot of “no’s” from their parents. Childhood is a frustrating time because kids want things- and most of the time they don’t fully understand why they can’t have them. While “no’s” are necessary for keeping kids safe and helping them learn, its also important that children are praised just as often as they are told “no.” They are proud when they master a behavior that has been a struggle for them in the past; such as waiting patiently for their turn or being gentle instead of rough. Children thrive off of their parents admiring words.
So how do you praise your child constructively?
- Be Specific
Use warm, admiring language when your little one is trying hard, for example, not to snatch the toy she covets from a playmate. You might say, “You’re sharing the toys so nicely with Ellen. Do you want to play with the other doll?” Or maybe she is learning how to stack blocks. This is a big step forward in her spatial understanding. Be sure to point that out with detailed words of praise, such as “That’s the way you build a tall tower. You’re putting the smaller blocks on top of the bigger blocks.” Developmental advances often come with one step forward and a step backward (think of eating with a spoon or starting toilet learning), thus your praising words are important to keep your toddler trying for more mature behaviors.
- Acknowledge Cooperation
Use specific, positive words when your child completes a task you’ve asked him to do. Admire and acknowledge his helpfulness. You shouldn’t gush, but you should absolutely say “Thank you!” for his cooperation. Thanking is a wonderful way to praise a child. One older child whose parents had taken her to the mall to pick up a few things found herself waiting in her stroller a lot longer than expected. When her dad thanked her for being so patient, she responded, “I guess it was necessary!” Her pronunciation was not so clear, but her appreciation of her parent’s praise was unmistakable.
- Be a Role Model
Remember that children learn positive values and empathy through your example and gentle comments. Kids hear lots about what they should not be touching or doing. Make sure you give plenty of praise when you catch your child being good. Be proud of your ingenuity in thinking up new and loving ways to express your appreciation. Focus on behaviors that are more mature, patient, and loving, and be sure to give specific feedback. Quietly encourage small steps toward success. Frustration is likely to decrease when your helpful words emphasize that trying hard is a very admirable quality.When you use praise and warm admiration judiciously and generously, you ensure that your child will remember kindness. In the future, he will be comfortable and skilled in giving considerate words of praise to others. As one toddler told his mom, who had just buckled him into his car seat, “You did a good job, Mom!”
Tips pulled from Parent & Child Magazine
Brittany was born and raised in Alabama. She is a Wife and Mama of two sweet babies- her son John is two years old and her daughter Annie is ten months old. She is pursuing her degree in Home and Family Studies with an emphasis on Child Development from BYU. She is looking forward to writing for Birmingham Mommy in preparation for graduation in the Fall of 2016.