Patients and Families

Catch Your Children When They’re Behaving

You’d be amazed at the power of praise! Parents often don’t respond to their children’s good behavior. If the kids aren’t causing trouble, they don’t feel the need to step in. Yet when children fight or do something they shouldn’t, parents tend to give them plenty of attention, most of it negative. As a result, children learn that bad behavior gets them attention.

Praise enables parents to catch their children when they’re doing the right thing and to reinforce positive behaviors. Praise actually motivates kids to continue their good behavior! Positive interaction with kids will teach them to pay more attention to their parents and help them learn to interact well with others.

Giving praise is one of the best and easiest ways to influence children’s behavior. When giving praise, parents should tell the kids exactly what they did well and the positive impact it had. An example would be, “I really like the way you got dressed all by yourself this morning! That makes Mommy proud.” Mornings are often a hectic, tense time for families. Praising kids in the morning will help start the day on a more positive note. 

Parents should be specific in the praise they give so their children will know exactly what kinds of behaviors are expected of them. Here are some examples of giving specific praise:

  • To a young child who is helping set the table, “You folded the napkins nicely. What a big helper you are!”
  • To an older child, “You finished your homework without having to be reminded. Good work!” or “Thanks for playing so nicely with your sister. It’s great when you guys get along.”

Sometimes body language speaks louder than words. When giving praise, the adult should move close to the child, smile, and look directly at him. If the child is little, get down on his level or put your arm around him. Praise the behavior, not the child. Instead of saying, “What a good girl you are,” say, “I really like the way you put your books on the shelf. That’s being responsible!” Kids love physical displays of praise, like hugs or high-fives. Give praise right away if you can. Immediate positive feedback is very important. 

It’s important to build Children’s independence and self-esteem, and giving praise is a great way to do that. When parents praise their kids, they interact positively with them and help form the basis of a loving relationship. Parents find that “when you praise, good behavior stays”—a simple concept that can make a big difference. 

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC offers Positive Parenting classes and other parenting workshops. For more information, call the Community Education Department at 412-692-7105. Current classes are listed on this Web site.

Last Update
September 11, 2008
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Last Update
September 11, 2008
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