I have mentioned before that I am not naturally a positive and encouraging person. I find it difficult to verbally praise people sometimes – either I can’t find the right word, or most of the time the critical/judgmental side of me find there is nothing significant to be praised for, unless they have accomplished something remarkable.
It’s okay in the adult world because too much praise can come across as insincere anyway, and people you praised may feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed. The same is not true in the young children’s world. Our children need a lot of praise and encouragement to feel secure, loved, and to thrive. Praising them for their efforts and good behaviors (big or small) also encourage more positive behaviors for young children, especially so because they do not fully understand good or bad, right or wrong yet.
Hence, being a mother of a young toddler, I have constantly reminded myself mentally to heap on praise. But you know sometimes reminding yourself mentally is equivalent of putting it behind – you forgot about it. I found myself not praising her enough and my praise is very dry, limited to “You are a good girl today”, “You are such a clever girl” and "Well-done, good job”, neither specific nor genuine enough. I thought I could do better in this area hence I am taking the time to write down the little things that I can praise her for in everyday life.
We want to see Kah Yen growing up to be kind, gentle and strong, to be patient, obedient and with good self-control, and also to be polite and kind to others, hence I try to praise her specially in these areas when I see her good behaviors.
In the morning:
- For lying or playing quietly on her bed after waking up, instead of crying for attention (Praising her for being patient)
- For waiting on our bed after her milk for Daddy to come out from shower and change her. Mummy usually leaves for work at this time & will play music for her and pass her two picture books. (Praising her for being patient and obedient)
In the day / In general:
- For finishing her food
- For packing up her toys after playing, with the help of Mummy
- For asking for a drink or biscuit in a happy voice, instead of whining
- For saying hello and bye-bye to a friend or a visitor (Praising her for being polite)
- For playing with her toys, not running around and touching ‘off-limits’ things (Praising her for being focus and having self-control)
- For being helpful to Mummy, example: taking her own shoes before going out, putting her water bottle back to the table after drinking, throwing used tissue to the rubbish bin
- For stop touching the remote controller, our hand phones or mummy’s wallet after a reminder from Daddy or Mummy (Praising her for being obedient)
- For getting up by herself after falling down (Praising her for being strong)
- For picking up toys which are accidentally dropped to the floor
- For sitting still in a restaurant after finishing her food. We normally give her a book or her notebook and crayon to keep her sit still (Praising her for having self-control)
- For being quiet during church services. She seldom makes noises or runs out of sight, some small toys and a piece of biscuit will keep her happy and contented throughout the service (Praising her for having self-control)
- For sharing her toys with other children (Praising her for being kind)
In the evening:
- For washing hands, brushing teeth and washing her hair without screaming or protesting
- For coming to shower or bedroom when it is bedtime without whining or protesting (Praising her for being obedient)
- For sitting still and finish reading a book with Mummy (Praising her for having self-control)
- For lying quietly in bed during Bible reading time (Praising her for having self-control)
Of course I am not saying here that she does all these things consistently. No, She doesn’t. And that’s the reason our praise is even more important because she learns from Mummy's response that it is a good behavior and over time she will be more self-controlled, more obedient and more consistent at doing those things.
PS: There are tons of articles on the internet caution you against over-praising your children too, in their cases, mainly bigger children. I did not read them all but personally I think these two articles are good reads:
“Too Much Praise Is No Good for Toddlers” from The New York Times telling you the peril of too much person-based instead of process-based praise.
“The Right Way to Praise Your Kids” from WebMD shares with you the do’s and don’ts to keep in mind before you break out in applause.