Praising your child

Do some of your child’s behaviours drive you bonkers?

Are you paying attention to the same negative behaviours day in and day out? You find yourself saying to your child “why do you never listen to me, how many times do I have to tell you not to do that?”.

Well, I’ll let you in on a secret… your child will continue to do the behaviours that you pay attention to. There is 40 years of research that says if you pay attention to the behaviours you want to see in your child, he or she will do more of them.

Child not listening? Praise him for when he does listen. “Thanks mate, you really listened to me and it made it easier for both of us.”

Child not speaking nicely? Notice when she does speak nicely. “You spoke so nicely when you spoke to your sister about that, you were very kind.”

And so on.

But you have to change your view and be alert to seeing the positive behaviours in your child, and praise it when you see it every single time.

However, saying “good boy” or “good girl” doesn’t tell your children what they are doing well, and encourages sibling rivalry because children start to vie for their parents’ attention.

Be specific – Tell your child exactly what you liked about what he did “Thanks for putting your washing in the basket, it really helps me.”.

Keep it positive – Say “I appreciate you walking through the house” rather than “thanks for not running”.

Be genuine, say it when you mean it – Kids are smart and they know when you are faking it.

Encourage new activities – Praise children for their effort and hard work, not for their talents (being smart, clever, beautiful). Praise kids for trying new things and for not being afraid to make mistakes.

Focus on the process – It’s the process, not the product that matters. “You really put a lot of effort into that project”, tells your child that you recognise the value of his or her hard work and efforts, Not all our kids will play footy for the Penrith Panthers or sing like Dame Joan, but children who learn to work hard and persevere have a sense of pride in who they are and what they do, and they bounce back quicker when they experience disappointment or bad luck.

Being an art therapist, please allow me to guide you on a great way to respond to a child’s artwork. Instead of saying “that’s awesome, what is it?” try…

– What would like to tell me about your artwork?
– How did it make you feel?

You can comment on the colours or shapes you see, or the amount of space on the page.

And if your child’s behaviour gets a bit ‘mistaken’ (Dan Gartrell)? Well she is only young. Ask her for a “do-over” (example: “how could you have said that in a kinder way?”) and praise her for getting it right.

And remember that a hug, smile, nod, or wink goes a long way too.


Related Articles

What to say instead of praising – Dr Laura Markham


Categories: Encouraging Desirable Behaviour


1 reply


  1. When parents don’t take charge | Hands, Hearts and Minds

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