Parenting: 3 Steps to Effective Praise


We all want to know when we do something well!  It feels good when someone tells us we did a good job or that they appreciate us.  In addition, if someone tells us they liked what we did, we tend to want to repeat the action.  Many books have been written on this topic.  Books have been written for parents, teachers, and even managers or other leaders in the workplace and organizations.

It is important for all of us to get feedback on our performance.  Believe it or not, there is a way to praise more effectively.  Read on to learn how to make your praise count!  This blog will be discussing praising your children, but honestly, these same principals can be applied to anyone you have a relationship with.

Specific Praise

Have you ever had someone tell you that you did a “good job” and you felt as though it was just fluff?  If you have, then this component of praising effectively will resonate well with you.  When you praise your child or teen make it specific, don’t just say “good job”, instead you can say, “Nice job cleaning the kitchen.  I appreciate your help” or “Thanks for getting your shoes on the first time I asked” or “I know you are frustrated.  Thanks for continuing to work on your homework” or “I love the effort you put into your project and the detail in your writing”.

Are you getting the idea?  Don’t just say “good job” tell them what it is that you like in very specific terms.   When you praise specifically it doesn’t feel like “fluff” and they know exactly what they did to get your praise and attention.

Praise Effort Rather Than Ability

This is an important one that most of us don’t think about, so let me break it down.  Let’s take the example of soccer.  If you praise your child and say, “You are so good at soccer” that is an ability based praise.  If you praise your child and say, “I can tell you are working hard in your soccer practices and games” that is an effort based praise.  So, why is this so important?

When you praise ability then when things get hard (and at some point they almost always get hard), your child falls back on what is called a fixed mindset meaning it cannot be changed.  If I am not good at soccer I am bad at soccer.  If I am not good at math I am bad at math.  I am not smart so that must mean I am stupid.  The list could go on and on.

If on the other hand they have learned a growth mindset they have a different paradigm.  The mindset of someone with a growth paradigm sounds different.  It sounds like, I didn’t have a good soccer game, so I will work hard in practice to improve.  I didn’t do well on that math test, if I study more I bet I can get it up.  There are some things about school that are hard for me, I will work to get through it.

Do you hear the difference?  If kids are praised for fixed traits that means there isn’t much they can do to if they are not good at something….it just is.  If kids are praised for their efforts then they connect success at an activity with the effort they put into it.  People who are most successful in life typically have a growth mindset that enables them to keep working even when things are difficult.  Here is a link for a great Ted Talk video you can watch about growth mindset   It is amazing that you have the ability to foster this mindset in your child!

Praise for Behaviors You Want to Encourage

The cool thing about praise is that when you do it well, you encourage the behaviors you want to see.  Think about it for yourself.  When you hear that the dinner you cooked was fantastic, wouldn’t you be more likely to make it again?  It is no different with your kids (yes, this is even true for teenagers).  We tend to repeat what we are praised for.  So, think about this for just a minute. If you can pick out behaviors that you like for your children to do (no matter how simple the behavior) you can praise it which will increase the chances it will happen again.  Seriously, if you implement this principal and stick with it can you see the positive change this could create in your house?  Simply amazing!!!!!

Written By Dr. Steffanie Stecker


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