Let’s face it, we all like it when someone praises us and tells us we are doing a good job. Positive affirmation not only makes us feel good, but helps us know that we are doing good at something. But, like all things, affirmation is great in moderation. Are you wondering how you can encourage your little ones on a daily basis? We have some tips that might help you.
Photo: Saffron & Sage
Start early. Even in the first few months, your little one is looking to you for approval and to know that they are doing things “right.” So, from the time your little one is an infant, find ways to give praise. Whether it’s learning to clap or reaching a milestone, be sure to encourage them for the seemingly small tasks that they are learning to complete.
Don’t go overboard. If you gush over everyday achievements (You ate your veggies – yay!) you will be discounting praise that is truly deserved. Giving praise too frequently may also make your little one expect constant praise and want to impress you unnecessarily.
Get specific. Instead of saying something like “Thank you for being good today” try “Thank you for sitting quietly in the waiting room.” This helps your child learn which specific behaviors or tasks are praiseworthy. If you are too general in your praise, they may perceive you are praising them for something else.
Place emphasis on effort. Have you ever heard the saying that it’s about the journey and not the destination? Be sure to praise your child on hard work, enthusiasm or progress just as much as you do on an outcome they achieve. Acknowledge when they are making progress at learning to do something. After all, we can’t be good at everything, but we can always be good at putting in effort and that in itself is something important for children to learn.
Focus on the task. Young children can have a tough time telling the difference between being praised for themselves and for a task. So instead of affirming your child, affirm the action that they took. This goes back to being specific and helping your child learn that it was a specific action or behavior that earned the praise and not just them as a person.
Be truthful. Your little one can tell if you are lying or stretching the truth. Even in praise, it’s OK to acknowledge when your child didn’t do something right or at their best. Just encourage them to do better the next time and talk about ways that they can improve and learn.
Use nonverbal cues. Body language often says much more than the words we speak. A smile, a hug or even just a thumbs up can mean a lot to your little one. A smile or a hug can also be less distracting than words. This goes back to being truthful. If your body language matches what you are saying, it will reinforce your words.
There is no right or wrong way to praise your little one. If you pay attention, you may find that some types of praise resonate more with your child than other kinds of praise.