Children build on their strengths and work on their weaknesses.   This is one of the most important things to keep in mind when we are with the children. It is important that we tell children what they are doing well and help them understand what is being expected. We often say “Great job!” or “Well done!” as praise. However, there’s a difference between giving that kind of general praise rather than specific compliments on your child’s work or behaviour. Beside praising and celebrating learning success with children, we can also use what we say to reinforce behaviours that lead to positive change and growth.

Encouraging language can be used throughout the day for a variety of purposes. Here are some key points when identifying and affirming children’s specific positive behaviours. They can be very powerful in helping children recognise exactly what they’re doing well and when they are on the right track.


Label concrete, specific behaviours

  • Identifying and describing desirable behaviours helps children become more aware of what they know, what they can do, and how they have progressed. It allows them to pull the behaviours up more easily as well as reuse, consolidate, and build on them.   For example, “You sat really well during dinner time today. I also saw you tried very hard to use the spoon and held the bowl when you ate.”


Use a warm and supportive tone

  • Name only what your child actually did and maintain a supportive tone when they make mistakes or forget expectations. For example, “I see you are sitting on your chair with your quiet feet.” even if your child was busy with his hands, or “You have waited so patiently for your turn to speak” even if your child talks really loudly when it is his turn to talk.


Emphasise the objective behaviour over personal approval

  • We want to motivate our children to be cooperative and behave sensibly. For example, “You handled your toys very carefully so they wouldn’t break when you put them away.” Instead of “I liked how you put the toys away so carefully”, which focuses on our feelings and implies that the purpose of their good behaviour is to please us.


Consider adding a question to extend their thinking

  • Questions can be used to help children to be more aware of the behaviour named, to deepen their understanding of how such behaviour is helpful, or to help them see what they can do to improve further. For example, “You finished your homework so quickly today. Are you happy that you have more time for toys?” This can help children become aware of how staying focused help them finish their activities efficiently and earn extra play time.


Find positives to name

  • Focus on behaviours that are truly important and relevant to a child’s growth. Even when their achievements or behaviour are not where we want them to be, we can still see some positives or perhaps some growth if we observe carefully. We can pay attention to the progress in those areas and give a lot of praise. For example, “I noticed you shared one of your cars with your brother” when ‘sharing’ is a goal that your child is working on.