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Five Ideas for Praising Your Child

Who knew? March 1 is World Compliment Day (who comes up with these days?!): a day that aims to address the “basic human need for recognition and appreciation.”[1] Which I can appreciate. As a parent of four very different children, I found that positive praise worked on each of them and became a key tool that I practiced enabling my goal of true connection with each of them.

Positive praise should outweigh instances of criticism 5 to 1 to increase positive affect and well-being, both in children and their parents (Rodriquez & Sprick, n.d.).

The Power of Feeling Loved

I was reading a Lady Gaga interview about A Star is Born, which resonated with me on a lot of levels. Of course I can't find the article anywhere so I can't quote it, but what I took away from it was that a) despite the incredible success that both she and Bradley Cooper ooze, they too had difficulties in their childhood and b) that despite these difficulties , both she and Bradly Cooper felt loved as children, which was key to their success. They knew their parents loved them.  I was touched to be reminded that not only do everyone's parents make mistakes but also that superstars recognize the great advantage of simply feeling loved.

“There is no such thing as a perfect parent. So just be a real one.” —Sue Atkins

Kids need to feel loved, valued and special. And sometimes it's confusing to know what that means.

Compliments Don’t Need to be Overly Complicated

For today, let’s keep it simple. As you probably know, praising appropriately is important for nurturing brains - but happily it also serves to show your kids you love them.  

Just compliment them. Twice. Pick two of my suggestions.. To repeat myself: the compliment does not have to be earth-shattering, "I am so impressed by how you worked on your homework: I think you might build the next generation iPhone".  Not necessary. Here are the rules: be genuine, be specific and avoid natural talents (you’re smart, beautiful, musical).

Much simpler - Here are more than 5 ideas to help you start:

  1. You do such a good job of managing your homework.

  2. I like the way you did your hair this morning.

  3. Well done working on that math homework for an hour to get it done.

  4.  I love listening to you practice the piano.

  5. I thought what you said about x,y,z last night was so interesting; your point of view was so mature.

  6. You made me laugh so hard when you told that story yesterday; you have a great way of seeing the humor in situations.

  7. I love how you set your alarm and get yourself out of bed every day.

  8. I love watching you play baseball.

  9. It’s so impressive how you like to read before you go to bed.

  10. It was so helpful that you put those dishes in the dishwasher - thank you.

  11. It seems like Mark really likes you; I’ll bet you are a really good listener.

  12. Your bed looked so neat today; great job making it this morning.

  13. It’s so helpful when you pick up your toys.

What that Meant for My Family

Sometimes we over-complicate things. Maybe we did not need all those chore charts my husband made: $2 for making your bed minus $3 for not making it unless you make it for 3 days in a row in which case only $2 would be subtracted (rolled eyes emoji). It NEVER worked and we never paid out a dime.

“Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.”—Bill Ayers

Extra Credit - Positivity Rewires the Brain

Research[2] has shown that receiving compliments causes activation of the same reward areas of the brain as receiving monetary gifts does. As a bonus, apparently research[3] also shows that receiving compliments can improve performance and help us learn. How about that! Praise your kid enough for making his/her bed and she’ll process it while she sleeps and maybe do it more. Could it be that easy? Well, it's a start.


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