I admit it, my desk and fridge at some point, were filled with my daughters’ drawings that I had no idea what they were. For some of them, I felt my daughters hadn’t made enough effort. The same happened with a number of “achievements”. Subsequently, I began to think of the best approach towards giving praise to children.  As a professional life coach for kids, I want to encourage them, not pushing or openly lying to them.

Eventually something clicked and I learnt the basics for giving praise to children as well as positive reinforcement. I have used them a lot with my daughters and during my kids coaching sessions.

Let’s start from the beginning. Praise and positive reinforcement, when done incorrectly or overused, can result to confusion or a false sense of achievement. Most children know when their work is worth it. Over praising (ie. praising anything they do) can lead the children into either not believing what we are saying or into a comfort zone from which the children will not want to leave. This can reduce their confidence to attempt new things in the fear that they might not receive the praise.

Praise and positive reinforcement when done correctly and at the right time, can have a tremendous effect in creating confident and innovative kids.

How can you find the balance?

There are two parts. First part is to focus on the effort made, second part is how to give them feedback. In my parenting classes, I help parents to know the importance of these two parts.

When giving praise to children, focus on the effort and the work completed rather than the outcome. The picture might be nice (or not) but spending 30 minutes concentrating and working on something is priceless learning.

The outcome, (the drawing, the music played on the piano, etc.) is almost secondary. It is a result of the skills applied (creativeness, focus, concentration, persistence, desire, etc). During my kids coaching sessions, I pay more attention to efforts.

The second part is about giving them feedback on the specific work. I recommend the “3 diamond and 1 star” approach.

After praising the effort and skills applied (whichever it was), ask your child to think of 3 things he/she has done that deserves a Diamond and what 1 thing deserves a Star. Diamonds are the things they are most proud of in their work. The star is for something they like but know they could do better. Finally ask them, “how will you make your Star a Diamond next time?”.

Three important tips; firstly, remember the ratio 3:1 to generate motivation. Secondly, ensure they always talk about their Diamonds first. Finally, let them come up with the solutions but feel free to suggest others that complement what they say whilst respecting their ideas. As a life coach for kids, I know this is not as easy as it sounds. However, I know it is not impossible.

Final tip, remind and tell them their resolutions next time before they go onto doing something new.

I was doing some research recently and found this wonderful resource. Check it out HERE.