Kids need praise to know that they’re doing a good job. But too much of it at the wrong time can disturb their concentration and undermine their efforts. It turns out that it’s the way we praise kids that has the greatest effect on the child. By describing the work done, without judgment, you’re encouraging your kid’s efforts in the best possible way. Read more about these techniques in How to Talk So Little Kids Will Listen.
A more useful way to praise kids is to resist the impulse to evaluate and instead to simply describe what you see (or hear or notice with any of your five senses).
Instead of, “That’s a beautiful picture!”
Try, “I see green lines that are zooming up and down the page. And look how they connect all these red shapes!”
Instead of, “Good job!”
Try, “I see you picked up all the cars and all the books, and you even picked up the dirty socks! I see bare floor. That was a big job.”
Instead of, “Excellent work.”
Try, “I see you circled every single picture that begins with the letter B.”
Instead of, “Good job following directions.”
Try, “You found your spot in the circle as soon as you heard ‘circle time.’ ”
Instead of, “Nice try.”
Try, “That ball reached the fifth row of tiles on the wall. It’s getting closer to the basket almost every time!”
Or, if you’re not in the mood for a lot of words, you can simply say “You did it!”
All of these statements let a child know that you noticed and appreciated something he did—without evaluation or judgment, which could discourage him from future efforts.
Don’t leave your child unprepared for school. Here’s how to build grit in your kid.