I have never been a fan of “praising” for the sake of praising, to build up a child’s self-confidence without connecting it to a true, real effort. There is no doubt, however, that praising a child with words can be powerful. Over time, however, I have come to realize that there is room for praise as long as it is specific to a task and focused on the child’s effort.
After years, I have embraced the idea that within specific context praise has its place. I don’t reward but I will enforce moments of good behavior. Here are twenty praise phrases that help me every day.
The Science Behind Praise
Quite simply, the brain responds to positive stimuli and praise feels good. But adults need to walk delicately on the line between laying on the praise for the outcome (“You’re so smart!”) and leaning into the praise for the process (“You worked so hard building that tower!”).
Praise can have negative effects. So how do we avoid the potential negative impact of the types of praise that actually leads to a child being less motivated and may even hurt a child’s self-esteem?
How to Avoid the Negative Impact of Praise
- Don’t wait for a positive outcome or for observing a successful work in progress – praise a child during moments of failure, too. Supporting and encouraging a child during these moments are crucial.
- Leave the super excited and possibly extreme praise on the table. Examples might include “Holy smokes! You’re perfect! I have never seen anything better!”
- Focus on the behavior rather than the child. For example, “You’re creative” versus “The way you put that tower together is really creative. I like how you put teal and pink together.”
Another Word for Praise
I hope you find this list of encouraging words and phrases useful in your daily life. Finding ways to compliment a child isn’t always easy if you want that child to focus on the effort and not the outcome.
Types of Praise
Process Praise is a way of recognizing a child’s effort and hard work throughout the process regardless of the outcome. Arguably process praise motivates a child to keep going at the task, to not give up, and to develop grit.
“I noticed how hard you worked building that train track. I enjoy watching you work hard.”
- “You slowed down and sounded out the word and you got it on your own!”
- “You’ve been working hard, I can see that!”
- “Can you try again to pick up the toys?”
- “Can you think of another way to build the tower?”
People Skills Praise is a way of encouraging a child by highlighting how helpful the behavior is.
- “Look, Joey, Eleanor dropped her ball. See if you can reach it for her. She may need help.”
- “Thank you for helping me. I appreciate your help.”
20 Ways to Praise Your Child with Words
- I love watching you build with legos.
- I love hearing you tell stories.
- Wow! That tower is really high!
- I love you.
- I’m so proud of you. You worked so hard.
- You’re so focused.
- You’re working hard.
- I am so impressed by your work.
- You have worked so hard and have improved.
- Your smile is the best.
- Amazing. I am so proud of you!
- How artistic!
- Yes! You got it!
- I appreciate how nicely you put on your coat before we left for school.
- You have so many great ideas!
- You’re so sweet and caring with your baby brother.
- Thank you for being so thoughtful about dinner.
- Thank you for letting me know you don’t like broccoli.
- Thank you for being so helpful in getting into the car for school.
- I noticed how you were able to calm your body down on your own. Well done!
Did you enjoy this post? What are your ideas about praising in the Montessori way?