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  • Mary Smith

Praise as a Consequence?


Background Let's assume we agree that the purpose of a parenting consequence is to promote better behavior. I can also tell you that research has proven that praise can change behavior. Ergo, praise can be a very useful consequence.


But not all praise is created equal. Some praise is the regular one we are familiar with: it makes the child feel better, makes her happier - and we all feel better when our children are happier. “Great.” “Well-done.” “Good job.” You’re a parent; I’m fairly confident you are providing that praise. Keep it up. But don't confuse this praise with the consequence-praise.

Have you ever played an instrument? The more your practice (repeat the behavior), the better you get. The key to praise is that it increases the likelihold that the child will 'practice' the behaviors you want. The repeated practice actually changes the brain.

The trick is that praise to promote behavior change requires certain ingredients: you have to be clear ahead of time on the behavior you want to develop, and then when delivering the praise, you need to be effusive, state the exact behavior when acknowledging your child, and get close to the child to give physical reinforcement. Your Script in Action Select the Behavior You Want to Develop

I want my kids to do chores. Start incrementally: picking up and putting away toys. Whenever the child does this, if you’ve asked or not, add the ingredients:

Be Immediate

Praise should be right after the behavior - or as close as possible.

Be Enthusiastic (effusive even though it feels awkward!). Smile. Look at them.

“That was great!”

Be Specific

“That was great! You put the toys away just like I asked.”

Be Close and Use Touch

Give some nonverbal affection: hug, high five, pat on shoulder.

As always, this gets adapted as kids get older but the elements stay the same GOT A MINUTE? Pick something that you want your children to do - not something that you are desperate about; pick a 'nice to have'. Just one and start small. Plan to praise it at least twice a day for three days. Notice the change.

Set the bar low and you will wire in the positive feelings of using praise as a consequence because you’re setting yourself up to feel successful, and that’s the feeling that wires in the habit. Want help? Call Me.


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