Parenting: The Power of Praise

Sometimes we notice behaviors in children that make us think: “I wish you did that all the time!”.

The good news: Research shows that praising and positively reinforcing your child in these moments can be very effective in promoting the desired behavior.

The not-so-good news: Studies have shown that other common behavior management strategies such as correcting, reprimanding, criticizing or punishing your child for an undesired behavior are far less likely to affect long-term change. But of course, these are all too easy to do in the heat of the moment. Sometimes we don’t even notice we are doing it!

Fortunately, the more we understand about praise and positive reinforcement, the more we can begin to implement these principles automatically into everyday life. There is no doubt that learning to praise your child in the right way will have a positive effect on their relationship with you – not to mention it will foster their confidence, self-esteem, natural curiosity and motivation to learn!

At Care Speech Pathology, we employ the principles of praise and positive reinforcement every day to promote healthy language development in young children.

What is “praise”?

Praise is when you let the child know that you like their behavior or actions. It is important to remember that for praise to be effective, it must be specific. For example, praising a child by saying “Great job putting on your coat before we go out, Joe!” is more effective than simply saying “Great job Joe!”. This is because in the first example Joe knows exactly what he did right and what you would like him to do again. 

It is also important to praise effort over ability. This will help your child realize that you like it when they try hard, and they will be motivated to try hard again. If we only praise when a child succeeds in something, they are less likely to ‘give it a go’ next time for fear of making a mistake. You can still be specific when you are praising a child’s effort by commenting on what they did well – for example, “Wow, good job! The letter ‘a’ does have a circle in it – good remembering! It has a stick too. Let me show you”. This comment is going to be far more supportive of a child’s learning than “No, that’s not ‘a’. That’s ‘o’. Copy me again”. 

We can also give praise during a task. For example, if the task is to put away all of the toys but some of the toys are still scattered, you can provide early praise by saying “Wow, look how many toys you’ve put away! You’re doing a great job. Keep going – you’re nearly there!”. This ensures that your child will succeed and see the task through to completion. This is far preferable to your child becoming distracted halfway through and receiving negative feedback from you later on. 

What is “positive reinforcement”?

A one-word explanation for positive reinforcement is a reward. When a child engages in a desirable behavior, they are presented with a reward to reinforce that behavior and are more likely to do it again. Positive reinforcement does not always need to be in the form of a $2 coin or a new toy. An excited face, a high-five or a hug are all excellent forms of positive reinforcement for children. Sticker charts with an end goal can also be an excellent way of providing positive reinforcement over time. Not only does your child experience the short-term reward of seeing a new sticker on their chart every time they do the right thing, but they also learn the benefits of working hard for a long-term reward when they finally reach the prize at the end!

Praise and positive reinforcement are powerful tools that, when used correctly by parents and educators, can transform a child’s experience of the world and the way they choose to behave within it.


Welcome to the Night Helper Blog. The Night Helper Blog was created in 2008. Since then we have been blessed to partner with many well-known Brands like Best Buy, Fisher Price, Toys "R" US., Hasbro, Disney, Teleflora, ClearCorrect, Radio Shack, VTech, KIA Motor, MAZDA and many other great brands. We have three awesome children, plus four adorable very active grandkids. From time to time they too are contributors to the Night Helper Blog. We enjoy reading, listening to music, entertaining, travel, movies, and of course blogging.

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