Motivating children and making them feel confident in their work by giving recognition and praise can have an array of benefits. It improves confidence, morale, pride and the pleasure of a task. When praise is effectively offered, it can increase performance levels and engagement as well as improving behaviour. In the following article, we look at some of the most effective ways of providing praise to your child, to ensure that the feedback is long-lived and constructive.
Quality of Praise
The quality of praise is more valuable than quantity. Quantity suggests to a child that they consistently require their parent’s approval and validation; it can also suggest that the praise isn’t genuine or sincere. Quality praise encourages your child to try new things, for their own development and gain, rather than completing the action for another, or for the reward of the praise.
As parents, praising children can become a frequent occurrence, with little to no thought being put into the phrase or the delivery. Often, children are overpraised, which can reduce the power of the recognition due to it being too frequent or when it is offered for achievements or actions that may not be worthy. This can cause children to anticipate and become addicted to the praise, rather than being content with the process of the task.
For this reason, rather than praising the outcome of a task, praise the action and effort imputed. By doing this, moral and confidence are boosted. For example, if your child has recently learnt a new piece of music on an instrument, the phrase: ‘You have worked really hard whilst learning this piece and your dedication and motivation are great’ is more effective and constructive than: ‘You played the tune really well and should be proud that you have learnt it’. This type of praise also allows your child to distinguish which actions gained them the compliment and acknowledgement, which also encourages them to continue with the recognised good behaviour.
Be Detailed and Specific
While praising your child, it is also important to be detailed and specific. This demonstrates to the child that their work is being recognised and time has been taken to appreciate their efforts. For example, if your child comes home from their grandparents with cakes that they have spent the day baking and decorating, rather than saying ‘they’re delicious cakes’, take the time to point out how well the decorations have been arranged or how carefully the mixture must have been stirred and poured into the cases. Focusing on the process, choices and efforts is much more constructive than focusing on the finalisation of the task.
Regularly highlighting good behaviour through effective praise, rather than focusing on your child’s mistakes reinforces to the child how you would like them to conduct themselves and which behaviours have the most positive outcome. By noticing and emphasising that a type of behaviour pleases you, you are enthusing your child to repeat the action.
The Feedback Sandwich Technique
The feedback sandwich technique is a method which has long been used to provide both praise and constructive criticism, but the method can often be detrimental to the power of praise and how it is received. If the feedback sandwich is used too often, it can result in children becoming anxious and uncomfortable when praise is given as it begins to be related with a negative. Praise and constructive criticism should be discussed at different occasions, this allows the child to enjoy the reward of the praise, as well as noting what they can work on in the future when criticism is discussed. When the positive and negatives are mixed together, often only one or the other is remembered and processed by the child.
Here at our Private school, Devon, we endeavour to effectively give praise to our pupils to show appreciation of their efforts and encourage self-motivation. There are many ways in which pupils receive praise at St Peter’s Preparatory School and they include: house points; having a copy of a piece of work in the Academic Book of Excellence; verbal praise from staff; written praise when their books are marked; receiving prizes and/or cups at Speech Day; stickers; bacon butties for unbeaten teams; being featured in the Celebration Newsletter, school magazine or on our school website and being awarded positions of responsibility. We would love to hear about your methods of praise via our social media channels!