W3- How to Praise Your Child Effectively

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Last week, we reviewed the difference between positive reinforcement and bribery. This week we are going to discuss how to effectively praise your child. How do we define praise? Praise is when you express approval for an action your child does. This can include saying “great!” “good job” “excellent!”  Anytime you say these words and other positive words, you might notice your child feels better and valued. We all liked to be praised by others; it makes us feel good!

You might be asking yourself, what is new? I know how to praise my child. Behavior certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) often recommend parents, teachers, and staff to use frequent behavior-specific praise. Behavior-specific praise involves four essential steps:

  • First, you will need to define or select the specific behavior the child is doing appropriately.
  • Second, you need to praise with excitement.
  • Third, you state the exact behavior that the child did.
  • Last, you can provide a non-verbal action (high-fives, hug, a gentle pat on the shoulder) your child.

Behavior-specific praise is effective in changing your child’s actions, which may include, completing everyday tasks (self-care skills, chores, homework). Behavior-specific praise is especially beneficial for kids with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Behavior-specific praise is a powerful strategy to help your child to make the connections of what they did and your encouraging and affirming comments.

For example, say your child set the dinner table as soon as the parent asked.

To follow our steps:

  • You select a behavior: setting the table.
  • Second, you might say enthusiastically “Dave, great job!” maybe with hand gestures. (praise with excitement)
  • Third, you would finish the praise statement with “you set the dinner table just like I asked.” (stating the behavior).
  • finally, you can pat your child on the shoulder gently. (providing a non-verbal action)

When using behavior-specific praise, remember your praise should follow the selected behavior immediately and quickly. For example, if you stated “Sally, great job helping me with wiping down the table last week.” Also, if the task is very difficult for the child, try to start with acknowledging and praising small steps that lead to the behavior that you would like to see. Such as praising the child for picking up the socks on the bedroom floor as cleaning the entire room might be too difficult for now.

Behavior-specific praise is one of the tools that we use in applied behavior analysis (ABA) when our goals are to increase appropriate behaviors. We will get to know other useful tools based on the principles of ABA in the coming weeks.

Next week, we will meet with our awesome student clinicians working in the Husky ABA clinic. See you on Friday! As always, like us on Facebook for the newest clinic updates and weekly blog posts.

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