Praising children frequently can feel awkward, especially if you don’t have experience telling others, very frequently, what they are doing well. Most of us don’t go around telling our colleagues or spouses “Nice handwriting during the meeting!” or “Great work pushing your chair in,” or “You are excellently waiting in line.” It seems mundane, but when we are supporting children to be able to participate in daily life, this kind of praise is exactly what will help them to flourish. So what does healthy praise frequency look like? How much is enough, really? There is never too much praise, and typically each child has at least one hundred praise-worthy moments every day. One hundred! Can you imagine how awesome and motivated you’d be feeling if someone told you how well you were doing one hundred times a day? That inner feeling of awesomeness is exactly what we are trying to cultivate for our children- especially for children who have special needs and may struggle with everyday tasks or understanding language and routines.
The question then becomes… what to praise? How to do it? How to maintain your sanity while giving your child one hundred+ moments of praise?
The Positive Parenthood approach is to praise any and all fragments of behavior that you’d like to see your child replicate more often. They key word here is fragments: it really does not matter how small of an act it is that is going well, and it doesn’t matter if it only goes well for one second. What matters is that as soon as it happens, you praise.
There are fragments of behavior you can praise all the time in your everyday life with your child. For example, you ask your child to wait. You know she has trouble 2waiting. Your child happens to stand quietly for one second. Before she has a chance to fall apart, you bend over and look at your child, your face glistening with pride. You grasp her hands, squeeze them, and say “Wow! (Name) is waiting!” These are the everyday moments worthy of praise; these are the moments that will enhance your relationship with your child.
Positive Parenthood is also about catching your child doing something well. Like fragments, this is an everyday, million-times-a-day, occurrence. For example- you announce it is time to get dressed. You start to sing the getting dressed song (whatever that is for your family). Your child independently begins to walk towards the dresser. You notice, and say “(Name) is ready to get dressed! Yay!” You smile broadly and applaud.
Are you beginning to get the gist of extremely frequent praise? It needs to be often, all the time. The idea here is that we are finding the golden moments and by emphasizing them, we are going to create more of them. It is important then, that you pay attention. You must be in it with your child, which means you must first take care of yourself. It may sound simple, but it is hard work to be so present with your child that you notice these micro-moments and can praise them effusively, frequently, and with lots of affection.