Saturday, July 6, 2013

The Incredible Years Program Part 2: Praise the Sh*t Out of Your Kid

Before I get into this section of the Incredible Years Program, let me just say something about praise.  I’ve read endless parenting books – some are in support of praise, others not so much.  The main argument against it suggests that it creates praise junkies meaning that the more praise children receive, the more they rely on adult evaluations instead of forming their own judgments.  Other theories suggest that praise manipulates children, casts judgment on them and decreases their pleasure.    

That being said, I am a huge supporter of praise.  This is where my husband and I found we were most falling behind and also where we saw the most improved behaviour.  It is also important to note that some parents state that they don’t praise their children but rather, they encourage them.  I say whatever.  We’re all talking about the same thing here, so use whatever verb you want.  I’m calling it praise, even if it’s not the most popular word in parenting circles right now.

Here are some suggestions for praising your kid:
·       Catch your child being good – don’t save praise for perfect behaviour.  This was a HUGE light bulb moment for my husband and me.  We realized we were waiting for full days of no hitting, kicking, scratching and swearing before we would offer any praise.  Instead, we started praising every 15 minutes of good behaviour.  It was A LOT of praise and definitely seemed like overkill but our son loved it and really responded well to knowing that we were paying attention all the time. 

·       Choose one behaviour you would like to see your child engage in more frequently, and systematically praise it every time it occurs for a week.  For example: playing quietly, going to bed when requested, picking up toys and sharing with others.  The idea here is rather than point out (and in doing so, reward with attention) every time they don’t do something, praise them every time they do.   Once you’re seeing the behaviours you want to see more often, you can ease up on that specific praise and move onto praising other behaviours you would like to see.

·       Give labeled and specific praise. Rather than generic “good boy” or “good girl” sentiments, which are vague and generic, make sure to tell your child exactly what it is you’re praising.  When we started focusing on praise, my husband and I were constantly saying "wow, you're playing so nicely together", "I like the way you're using your words" and "you really know your manners". 

The program also suggests a tangible rewards system with charts, stars and stickers for desired behaviours.  After a week, the stars and stickers can be traded in for toys, screen time or other sought after items.  We chose not to go this route.  Our praise naturally comes with social rewards such as hugs, smiles, eye contact and enthusiasm so we decided to leave it at that.  I’m against giving our kids an allowance based on the household chores they complete each week.  I think that rather than pay kids to help out around the house, they should be contributing simply as members of the family.  We felt the same way about good behaviour – it’s just expected in our family and not something that we’re paid to do.

Try this out in a way that works for your family.  Just remember to be specific and to praise often!  Good luck and be sure to let me know how it goes.

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