As well as helping their self-esteem and confidence, I think praise encourages helpful behaviour.
I’m a single dad and when my kids chip in and try and help me, without even being asked, it just melts me. It doesn’t even matter if, say, Ayda spills the water she’s just topped up for our new puppy, It’s the fact that she noticed it was empty in the first place, and without being asked, has tried to do something about it that counts. I tell her, “Thanks, Ayda, that’s really helpful for Daddy, I’m really proud of you” and you can see she feels good about it and proud of herself.
I also think it’s important for kids to know that there aren’t ‘magic fairies’ that come in the night to make sure everything is ready for school or tidy up or find missing shoes! Of course, there are times when I have to ask them to do something nine times before they do it. I’ve noticed though as they get older, they’re slowly doing things without being asked, which is just the best feeling. I think they understand that Daddy can’t do everything and that I’m genuinely grateful for anything they can do to help me out.
In our family, George is the tidy one… Ayda not so much!! George takes real pride in keeping his bedroom and toys tidy and has developed a love of polishing. I always tell him how much that helps me and say things like, “George, you are really good at this and it’s really helpful to me” which I can see makes him feel good about himself and what he’s doing. With Ayda, she doesn’t like tidying, but she is good with the new puppy - even cleaning up after her and holding the lead properly. I don’t say, “why aren’t you as tidy as George?” instead I tell her how proud of her I am for looking after the pup so well. I suppose it’s about playing to their strengths, focusing on the good stuff, and making them feel good about what they can do rather than what they aren’t so good at.
In my experience, children need praise, encouragement and maybe even the occasional reward to do those things they might not necessarily like. Sometimes it’s nice to have a treat, even if that’s choosing what we have for tea. For some parents, reward charts work brilliantly for them, for us however, they did not. We did try, but it just ended in competitiveness, arguments and to be honest, I lost track of it all. I think it’s important to do whatever works for your family, and whatever makes life easier for you. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way, you just have to find your own way.
My top tips when it comes to praise:
- Explain the reason for the praise
Make sure they understand why you’re giving them praise, instead of just saying “Well done”. I think children need to understand why they’re getting the praise.
- Trying is more important than succeeding
It’s OK if they don’t get something right, it’s the fact they’re trying that’s important. I know it can be frustrating if they end up making more mess in the process, which sometimes happens if it’s something new for them, but they will catch on; and it is worth it!!
- Plan to your child’s strengths
If I’m struggling with getting them to do things they don’t like, such as eating vegetables, or getting things ready for the next day, or in Ayda’s case tidying! I try to give them praise when they finally do it, even if it’s taken them a while to do it. I found getting frustrated makes them like doing it even less! Play to your child’s strengths, so if they like doing something, encourage them. We all have our likes and dislikes, and children are the same.
- Make it fun
If you have chores to do around the house, turn it into a game to make it more fun.
- Tell them you appreciate their help!
I think children like to know they’re helping you, even though as parents we sometimes don’t want them to think we need it. I always tell them how much I appreciate their help when they do things that help me out.