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Praise that sticks: “I noticed. . . “

If your child showed you a project you wanted to praise, what would you say? A Fish Caught by Summer Girl

Most parents in my workshops respond, “Good job!  Nice catch.  Wonderful story.”

There are two parts to every verbal interaction with our kids:

  1. 1)  Our words (good job!)
  2. 2)  The child’s internal words (“cool!” or maybe “whatever, mom” or “not really“)

Which one carries more weight?  You got it — #2.  The child’s internal words will repeat over and over again in his head.  We want to shape our praise so that he responds internally with “I did a great job.” 

When we say, “good job”, we are providing an evaluation or judgment of our child’s product or behaDisappointedvior.  That’s okay, but for the long term we want our kids to learn how to evaluate or judge behavior on their own.   A self confident person can self-evaluate without depending on someone else’s evaluation.  Especially in the teenage years, when peers become the ultimate resource, this is important.  Also, evaluations are easy to discount or discredit.  When someone notices how great you look, how many of us say, “This old thing?” or come up with a self-criticizing response?

A better way:  Build confidence with evidence.  Use the phrase “I noticed. . .” 

Make your praise descriptive, like a video camera that records objective information.  Notice the factual details, the effort, the steps toward success, and then replay it for your child. 

Jumping-03“I noticed you worked on catching that fish for 45 minutes.”  Then bite your tongue. . . and let the child think, “I did a good job.”

“I noticed Abby smiling when you helped her with that project.”  The evidence of Abby smiling is more powerful than telling him how nice he was.

“I noticed that sweater really brings out the color of your eyes.”  Teach your partner this one.  You might look in the mirror and actually believe it!

Everyone loves to be noticed.  Use “I noticed. . . “ and notice the impact on your kids! 

Special thanks to mentor and friend Chick Moorman for teaching me this and many other parenting skills.

For more Works for Me ideas, go to Rocks in My Dryer.

Creative Commons License photo credits: cobalt123, teapics, AperturePriority

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7 comments to Praise that sticks: “I noticed. . . “

  • Wow…this was profound! I am going to implement it in my parenting style today :) Thank you for sharing!

    I popped over from WFMW…


  • Chris Steinman Nelson

    I used “I noticed…” several times this morning, after catching myself saying “good job” or “nice”. What I noticed about myself is this: When I used the quickie, good job, I wasn’t really paying attention to my daughter. When I used “I noticed” instead I needed to face her, really pay attention to what she was doing, and then really think about it. This tip caught a blindspot for me – thanks.

  • I have been told this before, and I have forgotten– Thank you for reminding me!
    Thank you!

  • you are so right. I am ashamed of the way I hear some parents talking to their children.They really respond to our words so we should definitely choose our words carefully.

  • GREAT reminder. I LOVE Chick’s book, Parent Talk! I haven’t read it in a while and you’ve prompted me to pull it off the shelf again.

  • I really like the way you’ve expressed this. I recently did a post about giving “meat” to your compliments, but I like your idea of “I noticed” alot! Thanks for this insight. I’ll give my readers a link to this post.

  • [...] a post about giving some “meat” to compliments, but this morning I’ve read a post here that I think gives that idea an interesting [...]

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