Guidance on Praise. How to effectively affirm and encourage your child

By kfg_admin

As parents we are naturally looking for ways to strengthen the relationship with our children whilst also supporting them to be independent and confident individuals. Praising our children is frequently our go-to in our parenting tool kit and it is imbedded in our vocabulary and expressions.

Comments such as “good job” and “well done” are often on the tip of our tongues. However, these well-intentioned phrases often led to children relying on our adult praise for validation and motivation, e.g., when we praise a child for putting on their shoes, we are really applauding the fact that they did what we wanted.

When parents give praise, we can ensure that it focusses on effort not outcomes. Although this is often so frequently used that it confuses children about their own self-worth. They are unable to judge for themselves how good they are at something since they are always being told they are doing well. It can also make children fearful of attempting new things since they are afraid of failure and falling short of expectations.

  • Be specific with words of affirmation and encouragement. Any praise that is given should only be in special moments and focus on the specific action or effort, e.g. “You really worked hard on that puzzle to put all the pieces in.” Or simply, “You did it!”
  • Trust the child and the process. Completing activities offers internal joy for children. Children are not outcome driven and find pleasure in the process of working with activities and inquiry-based learning through play.
  • Approval or connection? It is often good enough for children to know that you saw them in ‘that’ moment. They feel acknowledged and without the need for extra approval. You can ask your child to tell you more about what they are doing but ensure you are available to listen them. A simple exchange of “thank you” for effort goes a long way in lessons of grace, courtesy and social etiquette.
  • Know when to step back. There are occasions when the best thing to offer is nothing and just observe. Activities such as painting, construction, singing and dancing provide a safe space for a child to explore and experiment freely without intervention.
  • Give time. Allow time for children’s awareness to emerge. As a child nears the age of three they begin to become conscious of how their actions affect others. Offer patience with your child as they begin their journey of self-realisation that will last for life.

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