Positive Reinforcement: 9 Things You Shouldn't Say to Your Child
Learn what phrases to banish from your vocabulary and how to talk so your kids will really listen
"Great Job!" or "Good Girl!"
What could possibly be wrong with praise? Positive reinforcement, after all, is one of the most effective tools a parent has. The trouble comes in when the praise is vague and indiscriminate. Tossing out "Great job!" for every little thing your child does -- from finishing his milk to drawing a picture -- becomes meaningless. Kids tune it out. They can also tell the difference between praise for doing something rote or simple and praise for a real effort.
To get out of the habit of such effusiveness:
- Praise only those accomplishments that require real effort. Finishing a glass of milk doesn't cut it. Neither does drawing a picture, if your child is the kind who makes dozens of them every day.
- Be specific. Instead of "Beautiful job," say, "What bright, happy colors you picked for the dog's spots." Or "I see you drew a picture of the story that we read this morning."
- Praise the behavior rather than the child: "You were so quiet with your puzzle while I was finishing that paperwork, just like I asked."
How much nicer if I'd said that to my daughters instead of transforming into a spewing volcano. Luckily, I'm sure to get another opportunity tomorrow.