Therefore, praise is necessary to reward (reinforce) desired behaviors. Do not ignore good behavior if you want to see it again.
It is important to note that praise should not be related to how you feel about the relationship/person. It should be about the behavior: “Good job with your homework.” “I’m happy you are playing with your brother so nicely.”
This being said, it is very easy to spoil your praise by adding words to it that might cause the opposite effect of what you intent. Rather than encouraging, they punish.
So, here is a list of our favorite “Praise Spoilers”:
BRINGING IN THE PAST: “Well, finally you did .......” Keep in mind that kids live in the present. If you child perform the desired behavior, “now” is what matters.
BRINGING IN THE FUTURE: “I hope you do ........next time.” Or “See, if you make an effort, you’ll be able to do it again next time.” This can be overwhelming and therefore, punishing. “Because I did it now, I’ll have to do it forever,” is what your child might feel.
DISCOUNTING: “That wasn’t too hard, was it?” Don’t be “cheap.” The value is in a clear and straight praise.
GOING TOO LONG: “You did such a good job, I’ve never seen you do ......like you did now, because.....” The child tunes you out after a while and learns to tune you out from the beginning next time you praise him.
ADDING ON: Putting “but” after. “Good! You’ve made your bed, BUT look at the toys”. Do your child a favor, let him savor you praising him for a little bit, would you?
PROPHESYING: “I knew you could do it.” Are you telling your child he didn’t do it before “on purpose”? Even if you mean that you trusted him, your praise could easily be misunderstood.
PRAISING CHILD, NOT PERFORMANCE: we make it about the child’s real self, instead of about what he’s doing. Love is NOT unconditional. “I’m proud of or I love you because you cleaned your room.” We should be proud of our kids unconditionally, love them no matter what they do or don’t do.
EXAGGERATION: “That’s the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.” Just because they drew a picture of a girl holding a flower, seriously? Praise in proportion, do not overdue it, kids feel the difference. And they will really appreciate when the “most beautiful” is deserved.
What are the risks of praise spoiling?
Well, just to mention two, your child can become a “workaholic” (works harder & harder to get love & acceptance) and/or give up: “No matter how hard I try, I’ll never be good enough. Why bother?”
Daniel Adatto, BCBA