The Power of Praise and Recognition
Every single day, children and young adults learn enough information to fill an encyclopedia (remember those?). They learn math, reading, science, writing, social studies, music, and a host more school subjects that introduce them to new stuff. Then, they take that newly learned stuff and talk about it, look it up, or store it away for another day. Many kids have extracurricular activities that open their minds to even more stuff during the day. All of this learning stuff takes place while they are also trying to figure out how to behave in society, often learning the hard way. Sometimes mistakes are made and sometimes things go smoothly. All in all, being a young person consists of processing a lot of stuff every day and that can feel overwhelming and exhausting.
Studies have shown that a little praise and recognition for good efforts goes a long way. Kids (or anyone, really) will feel more motivated to keep trying hard when they get positive feedback in the form of recognition and praise. There is a right and wrong way to praise someone for their efforts. Here are best practices when praising and recognizing someone for a good effort:
Recognize a Good Attitude – Try not to focus on the goal or specific tasks to reach the goal and focus more on the attitude of the child. The approach he or she takes may not be the right one, at first, but if their attitude remains positive it will always have a good outcome. We all know that it is hard to keep a good attitude all of the time, but it is especially hard for some kids who have made the wrong decision over and over again. That is why praising them for keeping a good attitude will help them keep trying and not want to give up.
Keep it Real – A sincere statement to a child about what a good job they are doing means a lot more than telling them they are “The best”. Be specific about what you see, hear, and feel them doing. Praise what is good and recognize lessons learned. For example, “I really like the way you are painting that picture with bright colors. I see you are cleaning the paint brush between colors, now, it looks really good.”
Never Compare to Another – Each child is an individual and that, in itself, should be celebrated. What other children accomplish should have nothing to do with your child. Siblings are also very different and comparing can harm the relationship between them. Even a seemingly harmless statement like, “Someday you will grow up big and strong like your brother” is not beneficial. The smaller child will simply be reminded that he is not big, nor strong. Instead, praise worded as, “You are stronger than you were yesterday, good job eating your vegetables” is a more positive and motivating recognition.
Praise and recognition is one of the easiest ways to lift a child’s spirits and motivate them to do their best. Remember that each child deserves this, no matter what their behavior is like. There is an underlying reason if behavior is an issue, so take the focus off of that and put focus on something positive. You are sure to see the light shining in your child’s eyes when you do.