How to Praise Your Child (Other Than, “Good Job!”)
coParents praising their children of divorce helps their connection, encourages development and also simply, makes them smile.
At some point, the words, “good job,” become overused. What can you say or do instead of saying this? There are several ways to show your child that you are aware of their accomplishments:
- Show Appreciation: When you are appreciative, it far outweighs what any praise can do for your child and the connection between the two of you. So by saying “thank you” it is truly more effective than saying “good job.” For instance, “Thank you for cleaning up your toys. It makes it easier for all of us to walk in the room.” Or “Thank you for helping me cook. I appreciate all the love you put in the food.”
- Be an Observer: By being observant, it actually shows that you are paying attention to what they are doing, rather than the repetitive and automatic response merely through praise. In reality, our attention is all our children want, anyways. In this example, you could say, “You colored the picture with so many pretty colors.” This gives room for your child, if they feel the need, to talk about the picture through their own imagination. This is one key example that I’d also like to point out. It is also important to give our children a chance to share about what they did (in this case, what the child drew) vs. we adults putting forth our own thoughts and feelings about what was drawn.
- By asking questions, you are opening up an opportunity for your child to share more about their thoughts and feelings and come from a place within his creativity. For instance,“You climbed all the way up the hill. How did that make you feel?” This shows that you were being observant (as mentioned in the last example); and when you are asking how your child feels, it allows an opportunity for the child to express how he is feeling about it as opposed to how it is making you feel. Again, as pointed out in #2, it helps to make it more about our children vs. making it about us. Another example of gently leading with a question would be: “How many steps did you take to walk up the hill?” Or “Why did you choose to color the sky green?” Again, by asking questions, it gives your child a chance to describe what stemmed from his/her creative mind.
- Celebrating your child’s achievements and goals is very different from saying ‘good job.’ An example where you are celebrating your child with achieving a task would be, There are no judgments of whether it was good or bad. You are simply stating a fact that the task was done.
- Encourage Compassion: Instead of saying,“Good job for being loving to your sister,” or, “I like how you shared your toy,” mention how your child’s actions are being reciprocated by the other person. This could be: “Look at Cindy’s smile. She looks happy that you are sharing the ball with her.” And the same goes for when it’s a negative experience. Instead of making your child feel bad and/or “wrong,” you could say, “Do you see Bobby’s body language? It looks like he is feeling uncomfortable with how you are holding him.” Taking the emphasis away from how your child’s actions are making you feel (which is the core of what praising does) and gently guiding your child to see how his/her actions are making someone else feel is a better way for him/her to become more aware about being compassionate and understanding.