How to Praise Children

Mom showing how to praise children with a hug

Learn the best way to praise children effectively in order to increase positive behaviors and decrease a child behavior problem.

Saying things, such as “Good job!” after a child does something positive, can work well to increase behavior, but there are some important things to remember when using praise as a reinforcer to maximize its benefits especially when you are dealing with defiant children.

Initially you may find that using other reinforcers or behavior charts when you praise children make praising more valuable to your child. However, it is much easier to only use positive words to reinforce a child’s behavior and this is the best way to do that.

Tips for effective ways to praise children

1. Use Descriptive Praise

When you praise children, it’s important to use descriptive praise by stating the exact behavior you are praising. For example, if your child helped you pick up his or her toys you may say something like this, “Awesome job cleaning up your toys!” If your child brushed his or her teeth, you may say something like this, “Way to go brushing your teeth!”

2. State why the behavior is important.

Consistently letting a child know why a behavior is important will help him/her to learn why you are always asking them to do it. Over time this will help the child to believe the behavior is important as well. 

For example, again for picking up toys you would say, “Awesome job cleaning up your toys!” and you would also say, “That really helps mommy/daddy around the house so we don’t trip and fall.” For brushing teeth you would say, “Way to go brushing your teeth!” and also say “Now your teeth are nice and clean, so you don’t get any painful cavities.” 

3. State how proud you are of him/her and that he/she should be proud of him/herself.

Children love to be told that you are proud of them, but it is even more important for them to be proud of themselves. This helps to instill positive self-esteem. So, with all three important ways to praise children you might say something like this… “Awesome job cleaning up your toys! That really helps mommy/daddy around the house, so we don’t trip and fall on your toys. I’m so proud of your responsible behavior. You should be really proud of yourself!” 

“Way to go brushing your teeth! Now your teeth are nice and clean, so you don’t get any painful cavities. I’m so proud of you and you should be proud of yourself for taking responsibility and brushing your teeth!”

Sometimes things can become too focused on compliance without emphasizing why the actual behavior is important to the child as a way to gain natural compliance because your child begins to understand the importance and feels proud of his/her behavior, both natural reinforcers.

This type of praise also works well with children that have asperger syndrome behavior or signs of ADHD.

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