It’s not uncommon for me to initially receive odd looks when I talk about using praise as a discipline strategy. After all, praise is a positive thing. Parents ask, “Why would it make sense to give my child positive attention when they aren’t doing what I need them to be doing?” Valid point. However, we know that positive reinforcement and praise are actually among the most motivating parenting techniques you can use with your child. Children want to please you and they need to be taught and reminded about the desirable behaviors you want to see. They get plenty of feedback from others about what they are doing wrong, and very little feedback when they get something right. When we look at the origins of the word “discipline,” we find that it means “to teach.” When kids are acknowledged for things they are doing well, they pretty motivated to repeat those behaviors because praise helps them feel good about themselves, what they’ve done, and connected with you. Don’t forget that you are arguably the single most important person in their lives.
So, the next time you are frustrated during a battle over homework, chore refusal, sibling arguments, brushing teeth, or fill in the blank for your child here, ask yourself, “How do I let them know when they’ve done a good job?” and “How did I let them know they did the right thing, even if it took them 45 minutes longer than it needed to.”
Here are some specific suggestions for using praise:
Sara Kind-Michels, MS, LPC, LMFT
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