TOOL NUMBER 4:
One advantage of descriptive praise is that you can use it even when things aren’t going particularly well, by pointing out what has been achieved so far. When your child is making a mess or struggling with
a task, it’s tempting to point out what she’s doing wrong. After all, won’t that help her improve? But the problem is, criticism in the midst of a struggle can be discouraging for a child. On the other hand, when you give inauthentic praise (‘Don’t worry, you’re doing fine!’), this can be infuriating (‘No, I’m not!’). With descriptive praise, you can point out progress in a way that feels supportive and genuine. Often, when you can point out one positive thing, it is more effective than pointing out 10 negatives.
And even when sometimes we do need to point out what’s wrong, then it’s important to appreciate the positive first. A good rule to follow is to notice three positive things before mentioning the negative, and put your criticism in positive terms by talking about what still needs to be done, rather than what is still wrong. So instead of saying ‘Well done tidying up, but there are still blocks all over the floor’, you’re more likely to inspire your child to carry on clearing if you say, ‘I see you put your cars into the box, and the trucks too. I can see a lot more carpet! Now all this room needs is for the blocks to be tossed into their box too’.