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28 Positive things to say to your kids

Mary Fetzer is a freelance writer and marketing consultant with a marketing degree from Penn State University and 15 years of international business experience. Mary specializes in writing about parenting, children, pregnancy, college, h...

Daily praise for kids

Our children mean the world to us, but we don't always remember to tell them so. Remind your children, at least once a day, just how important they are with these precious inspirational quotes.
Daily praise for kids

A child's sense of self

"Praise, encouragement and kind words are an essential part of our everyday communication with our children across all ages," says Dr. Cheryl Rode, director of clinical operations at the San Diego Center for Children. "Children develop their sense of self through their communications with others, especially their parents."

As parents, the things we say to our children become part of who they are. Use words…

... to express unconditional love. "Words and gestures of simple affection convey that we value and appreciate our children for who they are (no strings or expectations attached!)," says Dr. Rode.

… to teach. "Praise is a wonderful teaching tool when it is specific and descriptive and genuine," says Dr. Rode. "It is also most impacting when praise is related to the child's efforts, not just the successes. For example, 'You worked really hard to finish that assignment on time' can help kids develop good work habits."

… to encourage. "Encouragement is similar to praise and supports a child's personal sense of competence," explains Dr. Rode. "Encouraging statements might show how the child can handle challenges, 'All that practice is really helping you get better.'"

… to show appreciation. "We can also make sure to use words of appreciation frequently each day," suggests Dr. Rode, "like 'thank you' and 'you are a big help.'"

Praise really works

The power of using positive language and praising a child is not just a parenting trend — it's a parenting must. Clinical research supports the positive effects of using praise and encouragement with children.

"Rewards, including praise, are much more effective than punishment in teaching positive behavior," says Dr. Rode. "Children learn more quickly when they have specific feedback about what they are doing well."

"In 2002, psychologists J. Henderlong, Ph.D. and M. Lepper, Ph.D. analyzed over 30 years of studies on the effects of praise," says child and family psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish, author of The Self-Aware Parent. "They determined that praise can be a powerful motivating force if you follow these guidelines."

  • Be sincere and specific with your praise.
  • Praise kids only for traits they have the power to change.
  • Use descriptive praise that conveys realistic, attainable standards.
  • Be careful about praising kids for achievements that come easily.
  • Be careful about praising kids for doing what they already love to do.
  • Encourage kids to focus on mastering skills — not on comparing themselves to others.
  • Be sensitive to your child's developmental level.

Try it!

Aim to offer sincere praise every day. "When your daughter practices for weeks and finally learns to ride a two-wheel bicycle, for example, give her praise for sticking with it," says Dr. Walfish. Apply these general praises to specific activities, behaviors and accomplishments:

  1. I appreciate it so much when you…
  2. You were very brave to do that.
  3. You are really improving at…
  4. It's OK. We all make mistakes.
  5. Thank you for…
  6. You made a good decision.
  7. Being your mom makes me happy.
  8. You worked really hard on that!
  9. You are very good at…
  10. What do you think about…?
  11. You handled that very well.
  12. I forgive you for…Daily praise for kids
  13. Now you're getting the hang of it!
  14. You are an excellent helper.
  15. That's your best effort yet!
  16. You really used your imagination on that project.
  17. Have a terrific day!
  18. I trust you.
  19. I am proud of you for doing your best.
  20. Your efforts are paying off.
  21. You mean so much to me.
  22. That was so kind of you!
  23. You figured it out!
  24. I can tell you've been practicing.
  25. You could really help me with this.
  26. You are a good friend to…
  27. Good thinking!
  28. I love you.

Too much of a good thing?

"We all like to hear kind words when we try hard," says Dr. Rode. "Using frequent positive communication helps build a strong parent-child relationship and can actually make discipline more effective. Both praise and correction are necessary to good parenting, but we want to make sure that there is a higher ratio of the former."

"Today, 'praise' is getting bad press," says Dr. Walfish. "Experts state that parents are over-praising their kids to their detriment. I do not agree. If praise is genuine, specific and earned, you cannot find enough opportunities to offer praise. Kids thrive on positive reinforcement. So, parents, do not skimp on offering praise. Rather, be thoughtful about how you deliver the message so it hits the target — your child's self-esteem! Bull's-eye!"

More on positive parenting

Does high self-esteem promote childhood obesity?
The right way to praise your child
The confident child

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