Everything that you say to your child has repercussions, and you need to choose your words wisely whether praising or criticising their actions. This is particularly important at an early age when they shape their opinions about what’s right and what’s not. After all, the right attitude is important to living a happy life.
Yes, parenting styles can be different, but the idea is that you raise a child who will be a good citizen of society. Praising a preschooler is important because it’s the time when they are building their self-worth. They are influenced by what they hear and see around them. It can lay the foundation for a sense of self in the years to come and even into adulthood.
Michelle Macias, MD and associate professor of pediatrics at the Medical University of South Carolina, says that children consider praise as a reward in itself. Praise is a way to help them learn the kind of behaviour that is acceptable. This is extremely relevant just when your child is about to enter his schooling stage. It’s their first real brush with life on their own and a testbed for how well you’ve raised them.
So, next time, remember to adopt these techniques when complimenting to make your child confident and responsible.
Praising A Preschooler: How To Do It Correctly
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1. Show genuine interest in praising a preschooler
Children need your time and attention, which is why you need to take time and show genuine interest in what they achieve. Instead of ending the praise with “good work” or “great job,” work on taking an effort to show that you want to know more.
For instance, if your child made a painting, ask them about what shape they made or why they chose the specific colours. It’s also a good time to ask them what they found difficult in the whole process, and what they would like to paint next.
2. Focus on the process over result
Child experts suggest that constantly using terms like “you’re so smart” or “you’re the best,” can be detrimental in the long run.
Constant use of such praises will habituate your child towards only positive reinforcement. He will find it difficult to deal with criticism or failure. So, make sure your focus is on the effort rather than the result.
If your child rearranged his toys without any help, try saying “You’ve arranged your toys by yourself. It looks so much better now.” Children need to understand the worth of effort over obtaining just the result.
3. Promote a growth mindset
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A single event of success or failure does not define a person. And that’s why your child needs to learn about developing a growth mindset.
This is part of a reinforcement technique parents can use when praising their children. The idea is to push your child to achieve higher and explore newer horizons.
For instance, if they succeeded at solving a puzzle, choose words like “Good work solving this by yourself, I’m sure you can now try more challenging ones.”
At the same time, if your child goes through failure, choose words like, “It’s okay if you did not learn how to wear your shoes right, you can always try again.”
At the end of the day, your child needs to understand that learning is a continuous process and stops at nothing.
4. Choose gratitude over praise
Humility goes a long way and is indeed a nice behaviour to inculcate in children right from a young age. If your child helps you to clear the table after dinner, acknowledge that act.
Parents can say “thank you for being so helpful,” or “you’re so responsible, thank you so much.”
Remember, showing gratitude as a parent will go a long way in how they treat other people around them as they grow up.
5. Offer neutral feedback
Parents are the first audiences to a child’s work. And often, we tend to overpraise their efforts given the obvious bias.
However, offering neutral feedback will help them be more receptive to receiving criticism and learning from the same. Instead of using words like “I love what you’ve done” or “I like the way you’ve painted,” use words like “You spent a lot of time in doing this, you put in a lot of effort.”
Using words like ‘love or like’ often passes a judgement that children subconsciously start looking for, which can be avoided.
6. Use your child’s name for positive feedback
Calling your child by their name helps them build self-worth. This just doesn’t just include direct conversations.
Children are often vigilant and do hear their parents conversing with other people, even if it may not appear so.
That’s why you need to be careful about how you call your child and the details you share with other people. The effort and praise are reinforced when children hear you talk positively about them to other people.
7. Enjoy their enthusiasm
If your child attended his first swimming class or if it was his first soccer practice, make sure to celebrate their enthusiasm.
Trying something new at any age can be nerve-wracking and rewarding at the same time. Your child probably is going through the same feelings and you’ll see them truly enjoy themselves if they like it.
Ask them why they liked the activity and if they would like to do it more often.
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8. Do not overpraise
A fundamental step that we often forget. You need to time and again praise their efforts, and not be overly critical of what they do.
At the same time, do not go overboard with your praise and set up unrealistic expectations for the child. Acknowledge the effort, praise the reward and motivate them to go out and aim higher.
In broader terms, constantly showering praises on your child is sending them on a major ego trip. You need to boost their confidence and not spiral them into overconfidence. As a parent, you will have to walk the tight-rope performing the balancing act between praise and critique.
At the end of the day, your child needs to feel optimistic about attempting new things and overcoming existing hardships.