News & Views
from   The Parenting Center at Abington

     That Really Isn't the Question
Has anyone been reading recent information about praising children? Experts say that while praise is necessary for our children’s self-esteem, there are indeed especially effective ways to do it. Does that mean all that praise we’ve given our children over the years has been done improperly? Probably not. But what does it all mean - praise more, praise less, don’t praise at all? Readon!
First of all, relax. If you are taking tbe time to read this article there is a good chance that what you’ve been doing has been effective. Praise is almost always a positive thing but there are some simple guidelines that may make it even more beneficial.
1. Praise specifically. Specific praise means stating what the child did and how you feel about it. When your child independently picks up toys that ware scattered about the floor, you can say, “You picked up the toys without me having to ask you. I really appreciate it.” OR “When you pick up your toys, it keeps the house looking neat and clean. Thanks for helping.”
2. Limit general praise. For instance, if your child sits quietly at a restaurant and afterward you say, “You were a good boy”, the child might not know what made him a “good” boy. Is he good for sitig still, for eating his dinner, for dropping his fork on the floor? General praise, while not a negative thing, can be restated in a more effective way such as, “I liked the way you stayed in your seat at the restaurant tonight. What an effort!”
3. Learn when to praise. Praise as soon after an accomplishment as you can. But you don’t have to praise your child continually. For instance, if you want homework done by a certain time, and your family has worked out a plan for a homework schedule, praise the child regularly when homework is indeed done on time. After the behavior has been learned or changed, then you can reduce the frequency of reinforcement or praise. Once the homework schedule becomes routine, you can gradually stop the consistent praise but keep an eye on things and perhaps occasionally, once or twice a week, say something like. “BOY, you sure remember to do your homework on time, even when I don’t remind you.” Just those few words are a form of praise and can be very encouraging to a child.
4. Be sincere. Try to pick out the things about your child that truly please you. For example, if the child cannot seem to understand her music lessons, but is reaUy trying hard and practicing almost every night, you can praise the effort by saying, “It seems to me you are trying your best to learn yom music. I think tbat’s terrific!” Also, too much praise loses its effectiveness, especially if the frequency or intensity is too great.
Specific, sincere praise is part of conscious parenting, While it can be hard work and actually requires practice, the pay-off over time will be tremendous. Praise can influence how our children feel about themselves. When we comment on and describe clearly a specific behavior which demonstrates their capability, our children are more likely to incorporate that message into their self-concept. In this way, they become more aware and accepting, on a deep level, of their own strengths and abilities. So the child who picks up his toys in example #l may begin to think of himself as a helper or a cooperative family member who is able to make a contribution to his home. By giving our children specific positive images of themselves, we are better equipping them to deal with some of the difficulties they may encountar in the “outside world”.
As we work to praise our children effectively, remember that each child is unique and may take in out praise in a different way depending on his or her temperament. Try to keep in mind also, that there is no such thing as a perfect parent or a perfect child. Progress, not perfection, can be a helpful goal to strive for!
By: Claire Gawinowicz, Certified Parenting Educator
Sources: Your Child's Self-Esteem by Dorothy Corkille Briggs
Withour Spanking or Spoiling by Elizabeth Crary
Healthy Kids Magazine - October/November 1998
March 1999
Vol. 1/ No. 5
The Parenting Center at Abington
is a non-profit, non-sectarian community service organization.

Editor of News and Views: Deanna Bosley,
Certified Parenting Educator

A publication from The Parenting Center at Abington
P.O. Box 596, Abington, PA 19001 (215) 576-0586

Printing of this newsletter is courtesy of the Abington Memorial Hospital.

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