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Mrs. Brinker: The best ways to praise kids

A compliment or high-five at the right moment not only makes them feel good, it teaches them pride and reinforces good behavior.

GREENWOOD, Ind. — It’s no secret: Our words are powerful, and our words can make or break our children.

A compliment or high-five at the right moment not only makes them feel good, it teaches them pride and reinforces good behavior.

13News Education Expert Jennifer Brinker from Greenwood Middle School discussed the best ways to praise children Sunday on 13Sunrise.

The benefits 

This one is a no-brainer. Giving a child praise boosts their confidence and overall self-esteem. Kids with a positive self-worth tend to do better in school and are emotionally healthier.

Dustin Grove: Are there different types of praise that are better than another?

Mrs. Brinker: There are two types of praise: praise for being and praise for doing, and both are important. 

  1. Praise for being is just that. It is unconditional and looks like statements of affirmation like “I love you,” “I’m so lucky to be your parent” and “You are wonderful.” These types of statements can easily be taken for granted, but they show the child that you are happy with them just because they exist. 
  1. Praise for doing needs to be specific. Not just for little kids, but big kids, too. Instead of saying to your little one “Good job” when they behaved at the store, be specific. Try “I really like how you made sure to not ask for too many things at the store, and I loved how you helped me find what I needed.”  For older kids, instead of, “Good job in your game last night,” it might look more like, “I really liked how you were cheering on your teammates, and you didn’t get discouraged even when your team was down.” You get the idea, just be as specific as possible. Also, it is a good idea to not just praise outcomes but praise effort. It is important to know that you don’t only approve when everything is going right, but you appreciate their willingness to learn something new and get it wrong from time to time. 

Dustin Grove: Is there such a thing as “too much praise?”

Mrs. Brinker: When in doubt, I would err on the side of over-praising, but yes, you can overdo it. I’d just say make sure your praise is genuine and that you are truly only rewarding appropriate behaviors.

Strategies in the classroom

There has been a movement in education in the past 20 years or so to give more intentional praise. Systems like PBIS, for positive behavior intervention supports, focus greatly on rewarding good behavior and providing ample praise. The bottom line is that rewards and praise can be great motivators for kids, but at some point, they have to want to do well just because it is the right thing to do, not just because they will get rewarded for it.  

When we as parents and educators can specifically point out the behavior we desire to see when kids are young, they will make a positive connection with doing the right thing.