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How To Use Praise To Inspire Behaviour Change in Children

Team StoryWeavers|November 11, 2020|

Using Praise Change Behaviour Kazdin Method

“Way to go!”

“Awesome!”

“Nice work!”

“Great!”

Praise is one universal tool that parents and teachers use to encourage expected behaviour in children. However, this handy tool is often underused. When used correctly, praise can bring out the desired change in children’s behaviour. Research suggests that praise has the potential to either enhance or undermine motivation. Praise is not one-way communication. The role of the evaluator is just as important as the role of the recipient. Praise is different from acknowledgement and feedback. 

In this article, we will cover everything you need to know to praise your child effectively to bring out and reinforce the desired behaviour. 

A Step-By-Step Guide To Effective Praise: The Kazdin Method

A renowned child psychologist, Dr Alan Kazdin, has come up with a method to effectively praise your children and develop desired behaviours in them. He is the Director of Yale Parenting Center and has written multiple books on parenting. 

 parenting tips Using Praise To Change Behaviour

Step 1: Think Of A Behaviour To Praise

Be specific when you are praising children. General praise will help children feel more connected to you but is less likely to bring out a change in behaviour. 

For example: 

  • Your child ate everything on the plate. 
  • Your child finished doing homework before dinner.
  • Your child picked up toys before going to bed. 

Step 2: Praise Enthusiastically

Once you have decided the behaviour to praise, be enthusiastic and show excitement. This is important, especially for younger children. 

For example: 

  • Well done!
  • Good work!
  • Great job!

Step 3: State The Desired Behaviour 

This is the part most parents do not involve in their praise. Stating the desired behaviour tells children what the praise is for. It allows them to understand what is being praised and increases the likelihood of them repeating the behaviour. 

For example: 

  • You finished everything on the plate like we discussed. 
  • You did an excellent job doing homework before dinner.
  • Thank you for picking up toys just like I asked. 

Step 4: Add A Non-Verbal Gesture

Now that your children know the behaviour being praised, you should finish off with a non-verbal gesture. It will allow you to reinforce the message. 

For example:

  • Hug
  • High five
  • Smile

Dos and Don’ts of Effective Praise

  • Do praise immediately after the desired behaviour has taken place. 
  • Do not add something that undermines the praise such as — “why can’t you do it every day”, “why do I have to ask”, or “see it is not that hard”, etc. 
  • Do not praise the child by saying things like — “you are such a good girl” or “you are a genius.”  
  • Do praise the effort and hard work put in by the child, not the outcomes as they cannot be controlled. 

Using this method of praise helps your child see themselves positively and helps them understand precisely what is expected of them. It is a short-term program to get children to develop the desired behaviour. Once the desired behaviour becomes a part of the child’s everyday life, you can reduce the frequency of praise. Praise is just one of the many ways of modifying children’s behaviour and it needs to be combined with other parenting techniques for optimum results.

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