Each time you praise your child for positive behaviour at home 3 important things happen:

1. Praise draws your child’s attention to that behaviour as a valued skill/achievement showing that this is something you consider worthwhile e.g. “well done for reading your book on your own” sends a message that independent reading is not easy and needs to be worked at.

2. Praise makes your child feel good and builds their positive identity; “I am someone who is working hard to learn to read”. Focusing on the positive is energizing and boosts motivation. Many children find the daily challenges at school show up their weaknesses which can be demoralizing and frustrating. Home can help to redress that balance.

3.Praise deepens the bond between you- “my mum/dad really notice what I do and think what I am doing is great”. John Gottman, a psychologist who has researched what makes relationships flourish, has identified that we need 5 positives comments from those we love to each improvement suggestion/criticism. If the ratio falls below 5:1 people begin to feel undervalued and defensive.

Make praise specific
General praise “you’re brilliant” makes a child feel loved and is irreplaceable. However, it is not enough on its own to help a child build better behaviour. In contrast, specific praise catches your child doing something successful and helps them remember what works. The 2 catchwords for specific praise are “what” and “why”

• What: Well done for clearing up
• Why: it keeps your toys safe and leaves the room tidy

Here are some ideas to make praise fun and to help you to establish praise as a daily part of your family life. In the long term you will want praise to be part of the language of communication between you that you do automatically without thinking about. These activities are designed as a short to medium term boost to get things going or to steer you over a rocky patch.

1. Plant golden seeds. The aim is to build your child’s awareness of their talents and strengths. Each time you offer praise, you send your child a message about possibilities, what might grow from what they are doing. Not all seeds will germinate and some will lie dormant for years before coming to life. You are recognising possibilities and encouraging optimism. Praise your child’s efforts when you see him absorbed in something. Enthusiasm and involvement are signs that your child feels both capable of what they are doing and curious to know more. Discovering and developing your strengths is highly motivating. Strengths can be practical such as making a model or a personal in taking care of yourself or perhaps something creative. Your child may seem to ignore you if they are very involved but your message will still be appreciated.

2. Write praise notes. Use post it’s, or if you are artistically inclined, make heat shaped or star cards to write specific comments praising something you have seen that day. Keep them to share as part of the bedtime routine. A set number from 1 to 3 a day prevents children becoming distracted by quantity. You can praise generously across the day verbally.

3. Good news diary. Collect the notes across the week to add to the diary and review once a week. Celebrate all successes and explore together the joy of making progress.

4. Celebrations book: chart special occasions and high points with photos, mementos and some written comments. Outings and social occasions can be revisited this way.

Older children, over the age of 8, are capable of planning and organizing their behaviour to attract rewards. You can help them broaden their good deeds with this challenge

100 good deeds
This involves a weekly challenge of catching an adult’s attention with up to 100 instances of desirable behaviour. The easiest way to track this is by transferring a coin or bead into a jar. This has the advantage of encouraging the child to internalize the responsibility for acting independently.

As a parent, you do need to be attentive, but if you both approach this playfully, it is a great way to encourage independence and also highly effective to resolve a short term issue. If a specific part of the day is a flash point, then this can be a positive way to reinforce the desired behaviour. The morning rush, homework, and bedtimes are often challenging as older children become more capable of avoidance behaviour which can turn into nagging sessions. The 100 good deeds challenge can help make behaviour change a fun and positive experience.

Author's Bio: 

Jeni Hooper is a Child and educational psychologist specialising in helping children to find their best selves and to flourish. Her book What Children need to be Happy, Confident and Successful: Step by Step Positive Psychology to Help Children Flourish is published by Jessica Kingsley Publishers and can be viewed here http://www.amazon.co.uk/What-Children-Happy-Confident-Successful/dp/1849...
Jeni can be contacted at info@jenihooper.com or visit my website www.jenihooper.com