The abilities to give and receive praise are often taken for granted. All successful parents know giving praise in the right way and at the right time are amazing tools. As a parent you must also understand learning how to receive and respond to praise is a neglected skill that is often taken for granted.

Praise is the name given to any behavior or activity that validates and informs a child they have tried hard or done something right. It supports the development of a child’s self-esteem and allows a parent to focus on building their child’s strengths and self-confidence. In order for you to provide appropriate praise you must pay attention to your child and determine what your child is trying to do. You do not want to reward them for something they did not work at.

Praise should focus on effort and not outcome. It should be an unconditional affirmation of a genuine strength of your child. The role of praise is to guide your child to positive appropriate behavior. Praise is age specific. In infants praise is generally a facial expression or high pitched tones that express your pleasure. For toddlers you show praise in both your actions and words when they show curiosity and an interest in exploring the world. For the pre-school and older child praise is given when they accomplish a purposeful developmentally appropriate task.

Praise may be a positive reinforcement that makes your child feel “good” and hence more likely to repeat a behavior or action (“Thank-you for making your bed!”). It may be descriptive and provide information to the child about what they did right (I liked the way you put your shoes on!”). Another type of praise is when you praise the effort your child showed (“You tried so hard to put that Lego tower together!”). Effort praise should be carefully used since it can reward a child for not completing a task the child really wanted to perform. The last type of praise is robotic praise. This type should be avoided. It is too general and your child will be confused because they really wanted to perform the task they were unable to perform (Your child receives a pass from a teammate and is in front of the goal and tries to kick the soccer ball into the goal but misses the ball and you call out: “Nice try!”).

The long term goal of praise is to help children focus on effort and action and not results. Praise will help your child learn how to deal with emotion and accept the emotions that are attached to various behaviors. It is one of the first steps in learning how feelings lead to thoughts which in turn lead to words and actions.