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Praise and Recognition for Preschoolers

by Joe Lawrence | June 7th, 2016 | Behavior, Preschool

child-&-chart-with-starsPreschoolers live to receive praise. They want the sticker for doing a good job, the high-five, the hug, and any other form of recognition they can receive. In this new generation of the participation trophy, where is the line drawn for too much praise?

Right from the start, I am a huge fan of the philosophy where you reward the behavior you want repeated. Positive recognition is one of the best tools as a parent and as a supervisor. However, we all know that when we are constantly receiving praise for the smallest things, it cheapens the meaning behind it and becomes expected.

Positive recognition helped my daughter sleep through the night, it was pivotal to her getting potty trained, and the tactic we used on our son. However, I still don’t give her an M&M every time she goes on the big girl potty now that she is six.

We need to make sure the praise and recognition match the accomplishment and the child. There comes a point when they are no longer motivated by the reward. Or worse, there comes a point when they can’t do anything without getting something in return.

For my kids, we laid out our expectations and told them what needed to be done. This started with them from the very beginning and we have kept it going. In preschool my daughter was given age appropriate chores and coached through them. She was to make her bed on a daily basis, and it was pretty rough in the beginning. Certainly no Pottery Barn catalogue would have featured her room, but we praised her for the work she did and slowly helped her improve the technique.

This is just a small example of how we can improve as parents. We need to give praise for the good things our children are doing but also coach them to do something more. I have no problem telling my child when her artwork is not as good as it could be. I can tell when she tries to do well and when she just scribbles. She actually appreciates when I tell her my true thoughts. She has been taught to receive criticism and get better from it. We aren’t teaching her to be a punching bag and just take a bunch of negativity, there is a difference between feedback and a beat down.

We need to reward the right behaviors. When they do something they truly struggled to learn or tried something new, that is worthy of praise. When they simply so something they should be doing, that is not a major praise event. Be willing to offer praise and reward those things we value, but also be willing to offer feedback to correct or better their behaviors.

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