Descriptive Praise.. Where have you been all my parenting life?
Five years into my parenting journey and I’m still learning new things all the time. I’d never heard of descriptive praise until recently. The boys were fighting and not listening when I was talking to them and we were having a tough afternoon. That night I downloaded an audiobook Calmer, Easier, Happier Boys (she also has a non-gendered version which I’ve linked below). It was within the first hour of listening to this book that I found this hidden gem and it has made a huge difference.
Here is a little of what I learned. There are lots of types of praise and it has many purposes. Praise is when you are telling your children that they are behaving or demonstrating behaviours that you like. It is great at boosting self esteem and confidence and helping your little one feel seen and heard. But descriptive praise takes it to the next level.
What is descriptive praise?
Descriptive praise is so powerful because the child knows what it is they are doing that you like. For example if the boys are playing well and I say ‘good job boys’. They are happy and feel great but they don’t really know what it is that they are doing well. But if I say ‘it is great that you are using your gentle hands’, they recognise that being gentle to each other is good and they feel good about themselves for doing this.
The book goes further to say you don’t have to tell kids that normal and expected behaviours ‘like not hitting each other’ is great, because we can save words like excellent and great for those for really big achievements. Instead just recognising the behaviour can be enough. E.g ‘I’ve noticed you were really gentle when you pushed your brother on the swing’ or ‘I can see you are sitting well at the dinner table tonight’. This still builds self confidence and esteem.
Anyway for us personally this has been game changing. As the book suggests we aim to do a minimum of 10 descriptive praises per child a day and you end up doing far more because their behaviours continue to improve. Often when we are now having a tough afternoon and they are fighting I realise I haven’t been praising enough the last few days. So I wait for the most mundane thing to notice like picking up something off the floor and I recognise it. Boom the behaviours all start to shift.
I must admit, I haven’t finished the book yet but for us just this small change has made a huge difference.
And if you’re looking for the books… here they are.
Calmer, easier, happier boys (the one I’m reading)