Praise and Encouragement

Praise is something we all love to receive. We feel good when someone says nice things about something we’ve said or done. Children love praise even more than grown-ups do. They’re building up self-esteem and confidence, so feeling good about themselves is extremely important.

The reality is that it is much easier to criticise than it is to compliment. Bad behaviour is more obvious than good behaviour. You’re much more likely to notice when your child is filling your shoes with shampoo than you are to notice when your child is playing quietly with the blocks.

Compliments and encouragement go a long way towards making children feel good. Descriptive praise, where you tell the child exactly what it is that you like, works best of all. On top of that, praising children when they’re behaving well is likely to make them want to keep behaving well.

Tips to help your child feel good

  • When you feel good about your child, say so. See if you can give your child some words of encouragement every day.
  • Describe what it is that you like. We call this ‘descriptive praise’. When you say exactly what you are happy about, your child knows what you mean. For instance, ‘Gee, I like the way you’ve tidied your room. You’ve found a spot for everything!’ or ‘I love the picture you drew. You really know how to put colours together’. And describing what you like is much more genuine and convincing to a child than vague praise such as ‘You’re a good boy’.
  • Try not to praise one child by comparing that child to another. This can easily lead to feelings of resentment and create unrealistic expectations.
  • Encourage good behaviour with praise, rather than pointing out the bad. This means trying to do more praising than criticising.
  • It takes a lot of praise to outweigh one criticism. Researchers suggest trying to praise children six times for every one time you criticise them.
  • Look for little changes and successes. If you wait until your child has done something perfectly to give a compliment, you might find yourself waiting forever.
  • Accept that everyone is different, and love that difference. Encourage each child to develop and feel excited about particular interests. Let your child feel a sense of pride about being different.