We welcome Natasha Hallam to our blog team:
After recently reading an article by Hanen “Good Job! Is praising your children a good idea?” it got me thinking about how much or how little we really do praise our children. Although the article suggested that everyday phrases such as “good boy, well done and awesome” can actually lead to negative implications, I am still a firm believer in praise! And feel that since working with children with speech, language and communication needs, that praise has become an important expect of their progress journey.
But I question as to whether, as a society, we are really using praise as much as we think we are? And is this praise actually benefiting them in any useful way?
After reading the article I was surprised to find that there are in fact two different types of praise and can now see
Hanen’s point of view:
1. Person praise – whereby praise such as “good girl and you won” is seen to judge the child’s personality or intelligence. This is focused only on a perfect performance and can lead to a reduction in motivation if pressure to achieve is put on the child.
2. Process Praise – focuses more on the child’s behaviour and the actual effort they are putting into the task “You are trying really hard with that colouring”. This type of praise is effective in improving motivation, performance and boosting self-esteem.
Of course we all want are children to be confident, hard-working and be able to take on new challenges; so maybe the question is not so much “is praise good?”, but more about “is the way we praise good?”
Here are some top tips to Perfect Process Praising from Hanen!
1. Each activity should always leave the child with a positive experience – no matter how big or small the achievement may appear, there will always be something to praise.
2. Don’t correct – when it comes to a communication difficulty it can be very detrimental to self-esteem if the child is aware of the fact they are not saying it right. However nicely you say “no say it like this please”, what you are really saying is “no not like that, like this”.
3. Modelling – instead of correcting, it is much more beneficial to just give the correct model; if the child says “it’s a horse” just say “yes it is like a horse, this one is a donkey”.
4. Don’t overdo it – praise must always be sincere and when it becomes meaningless it will lose its effect.
5. Limit Praise – once people get praising it soon becomes just a habit, you don’t need to praise everything so if the child is fully attending to an activity, then the activity should be its own reward.
6. Don’t just say it, Do it! – when a child who struggles to communicate says “bubb” for “bubbles”, don’t just say “great talking” actually give her the bubbles, as this highlights that her communication attempt was effective.
7. Praise Failure – but carefully; if a child is only praised when they have succeeded then praise becomes negative if they are constantly reminded of their mistakes. However, even children don’t like to be pitied so instead of saying “you tried your best”, try and focus on what they did achieve “you were so determined”.
8. Attend to Positive behaviour – encourage good behaviour rather than just success, even if a child is struggling with an activity you can still use encouraging praises such as “ you are doing really good sharing” to make a positive experience.
9. Ignore the Negative – small children are bound to fidget or find it hard to sit still, but ignored behaviour is likely to decrease.
This is not to say that when children do something that is deemed as inappropriate behaviour such as; hitting another child, we should simply ignore it. No, children need to learn boundaries from an early age.
What I am saying is that when the situation is due to a communication difficulty – it is always better to provide a positive model then negative reinforcement.
Good Luck and get Praising!
By Natasha Hallam
Have a look at the Hanen website for lots of practical tips Hanen.org