islandparent Parenting Well-being High-Intensity Praise

High-Intensity Praise

We need to flip our discipline around and bring more intensity and focus to positive behaviour. This concept isn’t new but if you think about it, how much intensity do you give to children when they don’t follow instructions or when they make a mess.

“How many times do I have to tell you to empty your knapsack when you get home!”

When we yell, roll our eyes, or have a look on our face it sends a message. Body language is powerful and looks of disdain or contempt can speak volumes to a child. So can our tone of voice no matter how great we are at making I Statements. Who do children think they are when we talk like this? Not very smart? Incapable? Bad?

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No child wants to be somebody’s disappointment. Bring the volume down on corrective feedback. Say it softly, with few words and low energy: “Sam, I notice your backpack hasn’t been emptied, can you take a moment to do that now please.” When you do this, you avoid promoting intense, negative feelings in the child such as fear or humiliation. These feelings activate a child’s nervous system and create defiance, defensiveness or self-criticism.

Turn up the volume on positive feedback.

We need to find much more genuine and creative ways to praise children. The boring and often meaningless, “Good job!” doesn’t really mean much. Not only that, empty praise or gushy praise can be manipulative and insincere. Children feel this and it can bring about resistance. Or, if they buy into the verbal tick of good job, they become approval junkies and take fewer healthy risks. This sugar-coated form of control backfires and the more you give, the more they need.

Instead, be specific, sincere and show expressed delight. “Sam, you just walked right in and emptied your knapsack without being asked.” This takes a lot of memory power. How did you remember to do this? The key is to be sincere and genuinely notice the child’s efforts or choices. You can also match your child’s temperament. If you have an intense child, put some volume and zest into the feedback. If you have a child who is more of a mild reactor, get alongside them and show expressed delight with quiet enthusiasm. Keep it real and not a form of manipulation Show authentic, in the moment, positive regard to your child and watch them flourish.

Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees
Dr. Allison Rees is a parent educator, counsellor and coach at LIFE Seminars (Living in Families Effectively).