Posted in Parenting, praise

Six Skills You Can Easily Practice While Playing with Your Child

It is so important to give your child(ren) attention and positive interaction.  Playing is a lot of fun, but it can also be an opportunity to praise positive behaviors.  I’m not of the opinion that you should work on social skills every single time you play with your child – that sounds exhausting!  And by “practicing,” I don’t mean that you have to do anything special; all you have to do is praise them for the skills you see (and maybe prompt them to use those skills if they don’t on their own).  Taking some time every now and then to praise your child for positive behaviors can be beneficial in getting them to use those skills with classmates and peers.  Here are some skills that you can praise while playing a game with your child, whether it’s a board game, a puzzle, Legos, or cars.

  • Taking turns – seems simple enough, but a lot of children struggle with taking turns. Praise your child when they are able to take turns with you.  You can also prompt them by asking “whose turn is it?” and praising when they identify that it’s not their turn.
  • Saying “please” and “thank you” – while playing, there are sure to be lots of opportunities to say “please” and “thank you.”  Maybe you passed a game piece to your child or they wanted the car that you were playing with.  If your child doesn’t say “please” and “thank you” on their own, you can prompt them, then praise them for using good manners.  You can also model good manners by saying “please” and “thank you” yourself.
  • Good sportsmanship – this one can be a little more difficult for some kiddos.  Some children really have a tough time losing.  The expectation should be that your child can say something along the lines of “congratulations” or “good job” when they lose, and something like “better luck next time” or “good job” when they win.  If you need a rationale for this skill, here’s a big one: if your child can be a good sport, their friends are more likely to want to play with them.
  • Asking for help appropriately – when your child needs help moving something or putting pieces together, they should be able to ask you politely for help (saying “help please” is easy enough for most toddlers and preschoolers to say).  Praise your child when they appropriately ask for help (and for saying “thank you” after you help them.
  • Concentration/Focus/Sitting Still – again, this one can be really hard for some kids.  Honestly, with some, you’re going to feel like you’re fighting a losing battle.  But practice helps, even if it’s short practice!  Praise your kid with something like, “you’re doing such a great job staying focused” or “I’m so proud of you for sitting so still.”  Why is this so important?  It is imperative that your child is able to sit still and focus while in school; if you practice with them when they’re young it’ll likely be easier for them once they are in school.
  • Sharing – praise your kiddo when they are able to share, especially if it’s a toy they really like.  They’re so much more likely to be able to make and keep friends if they can easily share with others.
Posted in Parenting, praise

Vague Praise VS Specific Praise

Praise is extremely important with children if you want to shape behavior (increase the good AND decrease the bad).  All praise can be effective, but specific praise is typically more effective than specific praise.  So what’s the difference?  Specific praise includes exactly what the child is being praised for doing.  So here’s an example: when a child makes their bed without being told to do so, an example of vague (or general) praise would be, “good job!” and an example of specific praise would be, “wow! You made your bed without having to be asked!”  Both are praise and both are great, but with the second example, there is no doubt in the child’s mind what they did to make their caregiver so happy.

Vague praise can be confusing, as it can be difficult for kiddos to pinpoint what behavior they are being praised for.  Think about a child playing in the living room.  He is playing quietly, rolling the cars gently, and sharing with his brother.  Mom walks by and says, “nice job!”  The kid will likely LOVE the praise, but he might not know exactly what he’s being praised for.  For playing with cars?  For sharing?  For playing quietly?  It might be all of the above!  In this example, the mom didn’t do a single thing wrong and should be commended for praising her child.  However, being specific can make that praise more meaningful.  Mom could’ve instead said, “awesome job sharing with your brother,” “thank you for playing quietly,” or “I’m so proud of you for playing nicely together.”

More examples of specific praise:

  • “Awesome job asking first before getting a snack!”
  • “Look at you! You finished your homework without help!”
  • “Thank you for emptying the dishwasher.”
  • “Wow!  You put your shoes in the right spot!”
  • “Thank you for cleaning up your art supplies.”
  • “I’m so proud of you for helping your friend.”

Don’t get me wrong – vague or general praise is great!  It is definitely better than no praise at all.  But if you can get in some specific praise, more power to you!

Posted in Parenting, praise

Five Praise Statement Printouts

It’s rare that I get a parent to admit this, but I have had some express how difficult it can be to praise because they aren’t used to using praise statements.  These documents can be a wonderful tool to give parents ideas on how to praise.  I often suggest that parents hang it on the refrigerator… that way they can reference it when needed and it will also serve as a visual reminder to praise!!  I even keep one on the bulletin board in my office – as a reminder to parents and myself.

Below is a handful of documents that were created to give examples of ways to praise – there are so many you can find online.  A lot of them included the same praise statements, but they are formatted differently and it’s nice to be able to choose whichever one is most visually appealing to you.  Choose whichever you like best and put it somewhere to remind you to praise!!