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powerful ways to praise

If you wanted to praise your child for something he or she did, what would you say? A Fish Caught by Summer Girl

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

That’s okay, but it could be better.  I tend to hunger for more.  There’s a reason.

I’ve learned to think about two parts to every comment:

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

Which one carries more weight?  You got it — #2.  The internal words will create the tape that replays in her mind.  That’s the part that sticks.  We want to shape our praise so that she tells herself–internally–“I did a great job.” 

Typically, we evaluate or judge our child’s product or behaDisappointedvior (That’s “great”).  It may work temporarily, but for the long term we want our kids to evaluate on their own.   A confident person can self-evaluate without depending on someone else.  This is crucial in the teenage years, when peers become the ultimate resource.  Evaluations are also easy to discredit.  How many of us say, “This old thing?” when someone tries to compliment us?  Or when you tell a teen she’s beautiful or smart, does she believe it?

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

Make your praise descriptive, like a video camera.  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’m persistent.  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 tell me how you notice the impact.

Do you live in or around Southeast Michigan?  Come learn The Six Best Parenting Strategies Ever with me and Thomas Haller on March 28th.  Click here to get the scoop

Go to We are THAT Family for more Works for Me Wednesday ideas.

Yes, this post first ran in October 2008.  Thanks to those of you who might be reading again.

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