“Praise your children openly, reprehend them secretly.” — George W Cecil
Most parents advise, admonish or criticise their children when they make a mistake. But, they are not so forthcoming with compliments when their children do something that deserves appreciation. Part of the reason may be that most parents don’t realise the crucial role of compliments in motivating and encouraging a child.
However, reading the findings of Sugawara et al’s study titled, ‘Social Rewards Enhance Offline Improvements in Motor Skill’, would make parents realise the magical, positive effect praise has on individuals. In their study published in the journal PLoS One in 2012, they say, “Praise can boost self-efficacy, enhance feelings of competence and autonomy, create positive feelings, strengthen the association between responses and their positive outcomes, and provide incentives for task engagement. In motor skill learning, for example, praise is hypothesized to provide feedback about the level of participant competence, which serves as an incentive to enhance practice efforts. Thus, praise accelerates motor skill performance by enhancing motivation.”
In the case of children, compliments or praise can have a powerful effect on the way they think and relate to everyone, their confidence level and sense of self-esteem, and the way they conduct themselves.
In the article, ‘Discipline for Softies’, by Nancy Rones published on Parents.com in 2008, Dr Alan E Kazdin says, “If you really want your child to be better‐behaved, you actually need to praise him even more enthusiastically ‐‐ and you can't rely on punishment to fix a discipline problem.” From what Dr Kazdin says, one can deduce that intelligent use of compliments by parents can make even a misbehaved child mend his ways.
Does reading the above make you think that you should have a change of heart and begin complimenting your child more often?
If so, then start by complimenting yourself first for having taken the first step in the direction of adopting a positive approach towards your child.
However, before you actually begin putting your thoughts into action, here are a few tips that will help you understand what to compliment in your child.
1. Compliment his behaviour: While you may be trying to inculcate and encourage good behaviour in your child through lessons and examples, a dash of appreciation would motivate him to repeat the same behaviour. For example, if your child arranges his bookshelf or shares his toys with his peers or does what you have told him to do, applaud his good behaviour. This would help him understand what you expect from him and how he should act.
2. Compliment her intent and sincere efforts: Children are always eager to lend their parents and anyone around a helping hand in anything they are doing. Although your child may not be of much help in sharing the burden, appreciate her intention and sincere effort at trying to help. This will encourage her to develop a helpful attitude.
A study titled, ‘Parent Praise to 1- to 3-Year-Olds Predicts Children’s Motivational Frameworks 5 Years Later’, was conducted by Gunderson et al. The study was published in the journal Child Development in 2013. According to the authors, “We found that parents’ use of process praise at home with their toddlers predicted children’s endorsement of an incremental framework 5 years later.” They further stated, “Praise that emphasizes children’s effort, actions, and strategies may not only predict but also impact and shape the development of children’s motivational frameworks in the cognitive and sociomoral domains.”
3. Compliment his sense of foresight and planning: Parents have huge expectations from their children, but most children live in the moment and take life one day at a time. However, there are some who love to make plans, both about the short term and far into the future. When your child makes plans and shares them with you, compliment him for his sense of forethought and foresight. Also, take the opportunity to influence him in a positive manner to stick to his plans and work towards making them a reality.
4. Compliment her achievements: Achievements, both big and small, occupy a place of pride in an individual’s life. A word of praise from adults whom children respect and admire, such as parents and teachers, does wonders for their morale. Andrew M Markelz and Jonte C Taylor published a study titled, ‘Effects of Teacher Praise on Attending Behaviors and Academic Achievement of Students with Emotional and Behavioral Disabilities’ in the Journal of Special Education Apprenticeship in 2016. One of the findings of the study was, “It appears teacher praise provided motivation to increase math fact completion rate and correct words per minute in reading.” Among other things, the study also found that “Timely teacher praise may have allowed the participants to become aware of their successes during the activity, positively reinforcing their efforts on the task at hand.”
Compliments enhance a child’s motivation and self-belief. Children who receive appreciation for their efforts and actions grow up into individuals who are resilient and believe in their abilities. Therefore, it is important for parents to understand when and how to compliment their children.