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The Early Years: Using praise

From Deb Archer

Kickstart Preschool, Two Harbors

Have your kids ever surprised you and picked up their toys, put their dirty clothes in the laundry basket, or hung up their jacket without you asking them to? These types of behaviors can be reinforced using praise. When your child demonstrates a positive behavior, state specifically what they did and how you feel about it. For example, “I’m so proud of you for hanging up your jacket.” If we simply said, “Good job,” the child does not know if you are proud of them for the way they combed their hair, for the thought in their head, for them shutting the door or for hanging up their coat. Praise needs to be specific. Secondly, if you want to reinforce a behavior, your praise must immediately follow the desired behavior. If you are proud of your kids for cleaning their room, you need to immediately tell them, “I love how you put all your toys on the shelf.” If you wait to comment till later in the day, the praise will not be nearly as effective. Praise also needs to be sincere. Kids can tell if you are being sarcastic and do not mean what you say.

Praise can certainly be overused. We all know people who praise every little thing their child does. Using praise can be a great parenting strategy to encourage our children to increase positive behaviors. Children want to please. When they realize that they did something good, and you noticed, they are much more likely to repeat that behavior. It is so easy to catch our kids when they are misbehaving, yet praising them when they are being good makes for a pleasant atmosphere at home.

Deb Archer is a licensed teacher and parent educator. She owns Kickstart Preschool in Two Harbors.