Effective Verbal Praise: When and How to Use it to Your Child

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There are lots of parents who have ineffectively used some rewards or tokens for a genuine verbal praise.  In general, any tangible reward cannot truly match the importance of an effective verbal praise to children.  A child feels that a sincere praise can help him internalize his personal reward system.  It helps him stop from attempting to work only for the external prize.  To make it effective, a verbal praise should be specifically given at the right time.

Tips to Effective Verbal Praise

1.   Make it precise and specific.  Don’t just say “son, you did a great job in Math.” Rather, it is more effective to say, “I’ve seen how you managed to score 14 over 15 in Math problem solving.  You’ve been improving a lot in your lessons of fraction and percentage.”  When your child comes home and shows you an art work, you can say, “I am impressed the way you put different colors together.  They make perfect combinations in your portrait.”  Don’t just say, “It’s beautiful.”  Through this effective verbal praise, a child will understand what precisely he has done great.  Your effective verbal description will help a child feel good about himself.   

2.   Focus on the child himself.  When giving praise, don’t just focus on the action displayed but rather on the child himself.  For example, to earn a “B” is great achievement but to praise the child’s “diligence” is much more important than what he earned.   Praising an act of “long patience” is far better than being able to cope with annoyance. Don’t make the child feel good about a task only—like a dog trained to dance.  Give an effective verbal praise for being a friendly child, for going to school before time, or being helpful in household chores.  It simply means a child needs the approval of parents about the positive characteristics. Highlight more on the character traits you think your child must develop and not on the action being done. 

3.   Be sure to give the effective verbal praise suitable to his age.  Toddlers would require more praises that older children.  But as children grow, they are inclined to get annoyed with same praises over and over again.  They know for a reason that at their age these things are what children should be doing already.  So as they continue to grow, be choosy to find a more effective verbal praise and how frequent you need to say it.  Gradually, you can improve your praises according to their age. By doing it, the child is getting more equipped to function as a better responsible person.

4.   Don’t ignore the value of non-verbal cues.  There are times you want to convey effective verbal praise to your children but they are not close enough to receive your praise.  During such time, give the importance of signals or non-verbal praise. When your son sings well in a school concert, give him “thumbs up” for his performance.  Give a “high five” when the team passes by after a won soccer game.  Give a high cheer and applause for getting a three-point shoot in basketball.  Praise their effort and their willingness to succeed rather than the achievement.  

5.   Explain that success is not overnight.  All successes are a long process.  However, there are parents who wait until such time their children have achieved the ultimate goal before praising them.  Effective verbal praise is very significant to give when a child finds difficulties along the way.  Praise each step, stage and character trait of your child.  Praise his hard work when he finds difficulty in memorizing a long poem.  Praise his perseverance although he fails and becomes tired.  Compliment your child in every difficult phase he’s going through. 

Real success comes from those times when children encounter many mistakes.  However, they will find it easier to succeed if parents support them with effective verbal praise.  Parents are a part of their children’s victory. So when they feel like giving up, back them up and encourage them to keep going.  Soon they will get a fraction of their achievement that leads to major success!

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