The Yeas and Nays of Praise
Praise. It’s one of the most important tools in any therapist’s toolbox. How we use it can shape the performance of the students you’re working with.
I’ve been asked to share how to use this tool with you today. General praise is effective to most students, but behavior specific praise has been proven the most effective type of praise. Behavior specific praise reinforces specific behaviors. Behavior specific praise allows the adult, not only to praise, but reinforce desired behavior. Reinforcing the desired behavior let’s a child know what specifically you are asking of them, and what is expected from them. A child’s language and speech is constantly growing, and perhaps they don’t understand the reasoning behind what you’re asking of them. This behavior specific approach is a way to expand their language and understanding.
This is also a great positive tool for discipline. Discipline really does get a bad reputation for only being a tool of punishment, but is in fact a tool for teaching. To use behavior specific praise in discipline has tremendous results to teach the child not only what not to do, but more importantly what is expected of them to do. It’s also a wonderful chance to talk about how a person’s actions make others feel.
In using more behavior specific praise in both positive and negative interactions, you are able to help expand the language and understanding of each situation as it occurs and the child’s language as well. As a result, positive choices will get more positive attention than the negative choice made. Next time the toys are cleaned, you may even be surprised to hear the child prompting you for praise: “Did you see how I listened and picked up the toys?”. This often occurs after an established routine of behavior specific praise has been in place.
Do you have any examples of how behavior specific praise has worked for you? We would love to hear your stories!