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Praise helps your child feel good about themselves.

Praise works better at encouraging the behaviour you want than criticising and punishing your child for problem behaviour. It helps your child feel good about themselves and feel good about you.

Praise is when you tell your baby, toddler or child what you like about them or their behaviour. Praise will also encourage your baby or child to learn new skills. When you praise your child or baby for positive behaviour or learning a new skill, then they’re more likely to repeat it.  

Giving praise also helps you build a good relationship with your child, which will make you and your child happier. Research has shown that children who are close, and have a good supportive relationship with their Mum or Dad have higher self-esteem and are more successful in school and beyond.

Tips for giving praise:

  • Don’t worry about praising your child too much. Children are much more likely to repeat desirable behaviour when you praise them for doing it. Praise and positive attention will make your child feel loved and valued. They won’t get big-headed or over-confident.

  • Don’t praise your child when they have not earned it. It may make real praise feel less meaningful.

  • Give your child lots of praise when you see a desirable behaviour. This helps your child learn what behaviour you like. Reward the behaviour with lots of attention, praise, cuddles and favourite activities. Try to avoid giving sweet treats as a reward.

  • Look for times when your child behaves the way you want. Then tell your child why you are pleased and what you liked about their behaviour. 

  • Show your enthusiasm. When you give praise smile and make eye contact. Praise given across a room or running out of the door won’t have the same impact.

  • Make it clear to your child what you are praising. Be very specific about what you are praising your child for. It will show you were paying attention and that you really mean it. Instead of just saying “Well done” say “I loved the way you shared your doll with your sister.” Praise is not as powerful if you don’t make it clear what you are praising your child for.

  • Link good behaviour with a reward such as an enjoyable activity or treat. “Well done for putting your toys away in the box– now we can read a book together”. The rewards can be given spontaneously when you see a good behaviour. Or you can plan to give them when you see a behaviour you are trying to encourage. You may like to use a reward chart to do this.

  • Bribes and rewards are not the same thing. Parents sometimes use bribes to encourage their child to do something, for example offering treats in exchange for behaving appropriately. However a reward is given after the good behaviour, which is more likely to encourage your child to do it again.

Tips for praising 

  • Don’t wait for your child to do something perfectly to praise them. Praise your child for trying as well. If you praise effort, it teaches your child to keep learning and keep trying.

  • Praise works best when you give it as soon as the behaviour has happened.

  • Let your child hear you saying good things about them. 

  • Surprise your child with a reward for good behaviour. For example, ‘Thanks for picking up your toys – let’s go to the park to celebrate’.

  • Try to give your child 6 times more praise than criticism.

Don’t forget to give time to praise yourself too. When you encourage yourself with positive ‘self-talk’ you are more likely to do the same for your child. For example “I’m pleased with the way I handled things. It was good I stayed calm”.