Tuesday 6 December 2016

Descriptive Praise

There's a book I hear about a lot now that I'm a Mum. It's called "How to talk so kids will listen and listen so kids will talk" by Adele Fabel & Elaine Mazlish. It's been on my reading list for a long, long time but for some reason I've been skipping over it and choosing other books to read instead. Now I'm sorry I put it off for so long.

There are lots of great parenting books out there but this one is particularly brilliant. I found so many helpful insights and tips to help improve and enrich my relationship with my boys. Some I have been doing (thankfully), some I haven't, and one I'd been doing completely wrong. After reading the chapter on 'Praise' I changed my approach and it really has done what Adele Fabel and Elaine Mazlish say.

I praise my children A LOT. I spend a good part of my day saying things like "That's brilliant", "Wow", "So cool!". I remember hearing recently that young children can ask over a hundred questions a day, but I'm almost certain lots of Mums overtake that number with the amount of encouraging words they say daily. And although my words of praise are said with love, some of the time I say them because it's easier. Like the other day (before I read the chapter on praise!), Ross spent a couple of minutes telling me about a P.E game he played with his class. He did really well, scored lots of points and ended up winning. When he finished I said "Amazing Ross. Well done!" Throughout the day when conversations like this happen I will think that this reaction is fine, great even. I've listened, I've answered, and now I can move on and continue with my jobs. But that's not what I should be doing.

In the book they say a far better reaction is to describe what you see or feel instead, and this type of praise comes in two parts.

1. The adult describes with appreciation what he or she sees (or in Ross's case what I've just heard about the game he played and did well in).

2. The child, after hearing the description, is then likely to praise himself. (either internally or aloud by contributing something to what you've just said)

"The children become more aware and appreciate their own strengths."

The point of this type of praise is to encourage children to build self-esteem for themselves. If you can find a word or sentence that will tell your child something about himself that he may not have known before - "to give him a new verbal snapshot of himself" - that's even better.

When Ross told me about the game, I should have said: "That sounded like a really fun game Ross. You were able to get past the opposition and get the ball into the net five times! That took lots of skill and energy". If I'd said that then he might have had the opportunity to answer with, "Yeah, my teacher thought I was really good at passing too".

I go around in such a rush most of the day that learning about this type of praise was enlightening. It's a wonderful, simple way to encourage confidence and self-esteem; and has really helped me to listen properly to what my children are saying so that I can give an encouraging response. And the best part, it's so easy to do - perfect for busy Moms! Instead of saying my usual words like "Great" "Well done" "Fantastic!", all I need to do is to say back to them what I see, hear or feel.

During the week I discovered that this chapter also relates perfectly to playtime with little ones, and it's where I can get my practice in! Again I find it much easier and almost habitual to frequently say things like "That's super" when I'm asked to look at, say, a fort they've just built from blocks or a picture they've just drawn.

"When we really look, really listen, really notice and then say aloud what you see and feel children learn what their strengths are. All of that goes in the emotional bank, it can't be taken away, but you can easily take away "good boy" by calling him "bad boy" the next day."

This book is a brilliant source of helpful, practical advise. If you have kids and haven't read this book yet you definitely should!

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