Skip Ribbon Commands
Skip to main content
Skip Navigation LinksBoys Town Pediatrics > Knowledge Center > Health Articles > Effective Praise

Effective Praise

By Dr. Alexis L. Sawyer, M.D.

Praise is one of the most powerful tools parents can use to teach their children positive skills. Taking away privileges and giving time-outs can also be effective when correcting behavior; however, recognizing and praising improved and good behavior help to reinforce that behavior and lessens problematic behavior.

Practicing Effective Praise

Using praise works well when it is given in an effective manner and when you remember to use it consistently and frequently.

  • Look for the good things your child does, even the small things.
  • Remember to praise the things your children already do well, improvements in their behavior, and positive attempts at new skills.

There are three key steps to effective praise.

  1. Show your approval. Use words or actions to show your child that you appreciate what he or she just did. Give a smile or thumbs up or use words of affirmation.
  2. Describe the positive that you saw in their behavior. Comments should be brief and specific, telling your child exactly what he or she did that was praiseworthy. For example, “I really liked how you shared your toys with your cousins.”
  3. Tell how the good behavior helps your child and is appreciated by others. Benefits can range from your child being able to play outside longer because he or she has earned your trust, to them making a friend feel more welcome in a situation.

Tips for Using Effective Praise

  • Give the praise immediately or shortly after you notice the behavior.
  • Verbal attention is beneficial, but physical is better. Give your child a hug or pat on the back to show how proud you are.
  • Use tangible rewards sometimes. These can include bike rides with mom or an ice cream treat with dad.
  • Apply the five-to-one rule. For every negative behavior you notice and act on, find five positive behaviors or reasons to praise. This is a good way to remember to look for positive behavior.