Praise is another one of the classic parenting techniques that is now subject to some controversy. I don’t mind tipping my hand here–I’m firmly in the pro-praise camp. But, like so many other areas of parenting, the devil’s in the details, so to speak… The way that praise is given makes a huge difference.
Alan Kazdin, president of the APA and the director of Yale’s Parenting Center has written a book called “The Kazdin Method for Parenting the Defiant Child.” I’m reading it right now (just page 39 so far) and will post a review when I’m done. (hint: so far I like it a lot.) The thing that drew me to his book was his instruction on how to praise. I’ve been searching for some concrete, simple, and easy directions for some time now… after hearing one too many meaningless “good jobs!”. (sometimes from my own mouth, btw. sigh.)
So, Kazdin says to think of these 3 guidelines on how to praise:
1. Be very, very enthusiastic!!! (I’ve watched the DVD that comes with his book, and he really, really means this.) Super, super, super enthusiastic.
2. Be specific. Ditch the generic ‘good jobs’ and replace them with specific descriptions of what you liked: “I’m really impressed that you put your toys away the first time I asked you!”
3. Reinforce with a touch.
He also says that praise should be immediately following the desired behavior, clearly linked to that desired behavior, and frequently given.
I’m interested to hear from any parent readers who try this–does it feel different from what you’re doing now? How does it go over with your kiddos?