Today parents worry, fret, stress, and wring their hands like never before. They worry about how to insure that their kids will thrive while achieving success, popularity, happiness, high test scores, and the best careers. They want it all for their kids. And guess what? We aren’t going to tell you that all kids can have it all. Nor do we have a simple guide to becoming the Perfect Parent of all time.
But we can give you some good ideas about setting reasonably optimal conditions for your child. You can’t control your children’s genes, all of their relationships with other kids and teachers, every interaction with other adults, the planet’s climate, nor the current economic conditions of the world—even though all of these things and more contribute to your children’s ultimate outcomes.
Nonetheless, your parenting does matter. And a few basic principles and strategies can make a big difference. In the next few weeks, we’ll tell you some of the most important techniques, strategies, and attitudes for you to consider when raising your kids.
The first principle is doling our praise in the best manner possible. In fact, the acronym BEST is a good way to remember how to do it:
(B): By the child. Ideally, you should establish eye contact with children before praising them and you should be close to them as well. Shouting across a room isn’t very effective.
(E): Enthusiasm! Be sure your praise sounds like you mean it and put some energy into it.
(S): Specific. Single out exactly what the child was doing that pleased you. And whenever possible, specify the “effort” your child was making that you liked. For example, it’s far better to say, “I loved the way you worked so hard to solve that problem,” rather than, “You’re so smart!” Remember: Specifically point out the effort your kids make, not their general “wonderfulness.”
(T): Timely. Make sure you deliver praise when the desired behavior occurs. Don’t wait five minutes. Jump on the opportunity in order to make it effective.
You may also wonder whether praise can be overdone. Yes, it can! It’s important to praise kids often, especially when they show significantly greater efforts than usual and especially pleasing improvements in their behavior. You don’t want to praise them for “breathing.” As they master a skill, you need to pull back from praising what’s becoming a natural part of their everyday behavior.
TIP: If praising doesn’t come naturally to you, start out slowly. Single out only one behavior to focus on at a time. Gradually increase your enthusiasm. You’ll be glad you did.
Photo by Howie Le, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.