Mervin Smucker. Using Praise as a Positive Reinforcer with Children.

Praise encompasses words, gestures, or facial expressions that lead to another person feeling pride, joy, and a general sense of well-being. When we as parents praise our children for engaging in behaviours or attempting tasks that we approve of (e.g., for sharing, showing kindness and respect for others, playing with other children cooperativey, remembering to do tasks on their own without being reminded, attempting to master difficult tasks), we increase the likelihood that these desired behaviours will be repeated and become part of a child’s behavioural repertoire. According to child experts, it is best to give a child praise related to a specific event and not necessarily the total being or character of the child.

For example, when a child makes an unsuccessful attempt to do his math homework:

Example 1 illustrates the use of constructive parental praise:

„Wow, you really worked hard at that math assignment. Doing math is sometimes really hard and not much fun. I’m impressed with how hard you worked at those problems. Perhaps we can talk to your teacher about getting some extra help with this.“

Example 2 illustrates the use of non-constructive parental praise:

„You are a wonderful son. I am really proud of you and don’t know what I would ever do without you?“

Mervin Smucker Ph.D is an international trauma consultant and author of numerous articles and books on trauma and cognitive-behavioural therapy interventions.