Recognition can take numerous forms – a word of praise, an embrace, thumbs up sign and at times a tangible reward. But every bit is important to reinforcement as the speed with which the approval is shown. The praise should be immediate so that the child can make connections between his or her act and the pleasant consequences that follow.
Praise is defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as “the act of expressing approval or admiration; commendation.” Praise statements indicate that an adult’s preferences have been followed and often begin with the phrase “I like…” Teachers use praise to foster a students’ sense of “self-esteem, autonomy (independence or freedom, as of the will or one’s actions), self-reliance, achievement and motivation for learning.” Praise is often given at the conclusion of a task for work that is considered “well done.”
It takes skill to praise well. The trick is to praise particular behavior instead of making general statements. “What a good boy or good girl you are?” is not as effective as “You have been very patient, while I was taking time with Nancy.” Obviously, this statement helps the child to understand what you liked about his or her behavior. “The praise of the praiseworthy is beyond all reward.”
When a youngster is engaged in a difficult or prolonged activity, don’t wait for the task to finish rather encourage him or her during the entire process. This will help them keep their interest in the activity. Also such encouragement “That’s really hard and you are doing just fine” is the kind of supportive remark a child loves to hear. Children seek attention of their parents and you, and a wise parent or teacher always takes advantage of this fact and praises children with positive actions. This reinforces the youngster’s good behavior and encourages them to repeat it.
When reinforcing behavior, never hurry the child and never expect the change right away. If your goal is to make the child sit at the table for twenty minutes, then you need to praise the attempts in this direction throughout the sitting. And you might have to do this for several times. But trust me, the outcome of reinforcement is not only for a more cooperative youngster but also a better teacher-child relationship. “The tougher the job, the greater the reward.”
Remember, you can’t direct the wind but you can adjust the sails and the best teachers teach from the heart, not from the book.