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Why shifting away from praise is something to consider

boy child childhood happiness

By shifting from praise to acknowledgment, you are helping your child build their own sense of self, learn how to accept themselves for who they are, and learn what feels good in the way they treat others.

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5 key points to make the shift from praise to acknowledgment
  1. {Praise} can actually be used to manipulate children when we use it as a bargaining tool to motivate them
  2. {Praise} can create “praise junkies”
  3. {Praise} can actually take the joy away, with children looking to us for reassurance rather than experiencing delight at what they have achieved.
  4. Children can become less motivated when they do something for {praise} because it removes the meaning for themselves.
  5. {Praise} can lower achievement – when an activity is tied to the pressure to perform the child’s interest or pleasure in the activity goes down, or they take fewer risks. 

So let’s break it down:

It can be surprising how often we find ourselves saying “good job.” Once you start to become conscious of it, that’s when it’s the prime time to change it. Finding alternative language can be tricky, but here’s a little tip: think about what you would say to another adult when giving them feedback.

These are examples of alternative language you can use with your child instead of the traditional praise. These alternatives are great because they let the child know more specifically what we appreciate and give the child vocabulary, which is much richer than a simple, “good job.”

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Describe what we see: Focus on the process rather than the product and describe what our child has done. Give feedback by using positive and factual descriptions of the child’s actions and accomplishments.

“You took your plate to the kitchen”

“You look really pleased with yourself”

“You got dressed all by yourself”

“You used pink and blue paint. I see a swirl over there”

“You put your train tracks back into the bin and put the bin back on the shelf”

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Sum it up with a word: By providing a specific word for what your child accomplished, you are both helping to nourish their self-esteem but also building their vocabulary, effortlessly.

“You packed your bag and are ready to go to the beach. Now, that’s what I call independence”

“You helped your grandma with her bag. That was very thoughtful”

“You cleaned up your spilled milk with the kitchen towel without me asking. That’s what I call resourceful”

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Describe how we feel: By expressing how we (the parent) feels, it helps the child to understand cause and effect. And although we never can truly “make someone feel” something, our actions can have a big influence on someone else’s life. By starting early, your child will understand how their actions influence someone else.

“I’m so excited for you”

“It’s a pleasure to walk into the living room when everything as been put away”

“I’m delighted to see you doing your homework”

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Using this language is going to feel foreign to you, that’s ok, learning always is. Start slow and practice (just like we tell our children). It will take some time for it to become second nature to you, but once it is, you’ll start to see a significant shift in your child.

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