As we begin our study of a new character trait, Determination, I read the following article on Praise, in the Character First school booklet. Introducing the intentional study of character into our home has had a huge influence on the way we train our children. This article expresses some of the habits we have established and calls me on to “lift my game” in some other aspects. (I have modified the article only in terms of teachers/parents, students/children and school/home because that makes it more relevant to myself)
Most adults recognize the need to praise children, but for one reason or another, fail to praise as often as they would like to. Sometimes they merely forget to praise, sometimes they are too busy, and sometimes they withhold praise out of fear that it will produce the wrong results. However, if parents are serious about recognizing children for positive behaviour, they must determine to do five things.
1. Notice what children say and do. This means watching how they behave, especially when they are unaware of an adult’s presence. To record these events keep a memo pad or “Praise Journal” handy at all times. When you see commendable actions, write them down for future reference.
2. Connect a child’s outward actions to the character qualities behind them. Since it is difficult to remember every character quality by name, it helps to keep a list of Character First! Qualities and definitions handy for easy reference.
3. Verbalize approval, either privately or publicly for everyone to hear. Verbal praise highlights on only the character quality, but also the specific words or actions that a teacher noticed. The more detail included in verbal praise, the more meaningful it is to the recipient. It is also important to include how the character quality has benefited the lives of others.
4. Schedule praise at a specific time of day. Chances are that if you don’t schedule times to praise, it probably won’t happen …. At least not regularly. Keeping track of whom you praise allows you to recognize every child.
5. Expect positive results. Behaviour and attitudes, which get attention naturally, develop and grow – even negative ones. By giving attention to character through praise, teachers and parents help to ensure that only positive attributes become habits.
What these points look like in my home:
1. Notice what children do -I have found this to be one of the biggest keys in parenting – we need to be constantly watching our children – even when we are out visiting with other people. This isn’t to “catch them” doing bad but rather to guide them and direct them into what is good. When you see them heading the wrong way you can encourage them to choose character. When you see them doing the right thing you can praise them for their choice. Either way, watching them, being aware of them as people, is a win-win situation.
2. Connecting a child’s behaviour to a character trait. This has been the biggest change to our family in our intentional study of character. I call them onto Attentiveness as opposed to getting annoyed at their fidgeting. I praise them for their Initiative rather than just telling them they’ve done a good job.
3. Verbalise approval. Often taking the time to stop and say something to my children gets caught up in the busy-ness of getting through my day yet the reality is it doesn’t take very long to say “I noticed how you did your chores this morning – you seemed very Determined to complete them on time. You did a good job. I certainly appreciate having the kitchen ready for me to cook dinner. Thank you.”
4. Schedule praise. I use my afternoon cuppa as a little review of our day. As I reflect over our day I not only bring to mind situations that require praise but possibly recognise that a child hasn’t done so well today so I still have a couple of hours to get along side of them and encourage them in some way – hopefully leading to a situation where I can praise them before the end of the day.
5. Expect positive results. I really believe in elevating the good in my children’s minds I am helping them in the building of their habits.