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Praise, encouragement and rewards

Praise is when you tell your child that you like what they’re doing or how they’re behaving. Praise nurtures your child’s confidence and sense of self.

By using praise, you’re showing your child how to think and talk positively about themselves. You’re helping your child learn how to recognise when they do well and feel proud of themselves.

You can praise children of different ages for different things. You might praise a younger child for sharing or for leaving the park when asked. You can praise a teenage child for coming home at an agreed time, or for starting homework without being reminded.

Descriptive praise is when you tell your child exactly what it is that you like. For example, ‘I like the way you’ve found a spot for everything in your room’. This helps your child understand exactly what it is that they’ve done well. It’s also more genuine than non-specific praise like ‘You’re a good boy’.

Encouragement: praise for effort

Encouragement is praise for effort – for example, ‘You worked hard on that maths homework – well done’. Praising effort can motivate your child and encourage them to try hard in the future.

You can also use encouragement before your child does something. Some children, especially those who are less confident than others, need more encouragement than others. When praise is focused on effort, children are more likely to see trying hard as a good thing in itself. They’re also more likely to keep trying and to be optimistic when they face challenges.

Rewards: what they are

A reward is a consequence of good behaviour. It’s a way of saying ‘Well done’ after your child has done something good or behaved well. It could be a treat, a surprise or an extra privilege.

Using praise, encouragement and rewards to change behaviour

Children are more likely to repeat behaviour that earns praise or encouragement. This means you can use praise and encouragement to change difficult behaviour and replace it with desirable behaviour.

The first step is to watch for times when your child behaves in positive ways, or makes an effort. When you see this, immediately get your child’s attention and tell your child exactly what you liked – for example, ‘Noor, I liked how you waited your turn to play with that toy. Well done’ or ‘You’re working so hard at your practice. I think you’ll be great in the tryouts!’

At first, you can praise every time you see the behaviour or effort. When it happens more often, you can praise or encourage it less.

Rewards can make praise and encouragement work better. So when you praise or encourage your child’s behaviour and then reward it, the behaviour is more likely to happen again.

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