4 more clever tricks to try
Is ‘well done’ a stock phrase in your house? Perhaps another tool might work better than praise…
1 Acknowledge his feelings
Sometimes he won’t be happy with what he’s doing. And if his picture of a bicycle doesn’t look like a bicycle, our impulse is to offer encouraging words: ‘No, it’s really good. It does look like a bicycle’. But it’s more helpful to say, ‘You’re not happy with the way that bicycle came out, are you?’. Your child might respond with renewed efforts to draw a bike. Or he may decide to draw a ball instead. Either way, your emotional support helped him through his moment of frustration.
2 Give him a positive role
It’s tempting if you’ve got more than one child to boost the ego of the big boy at the expense of the baby: ‘You got your shoes on by yourself. Your baby brother can’t do that.’ But resist praising by comparison. You don’t want your older child to feel threatened by the accomplishments of his rapidly growing sibling. Instead say, ‘You got your shoes on by yourself. I know who’ll be teaching the baby to tie his shoes when he gets older.’ Now he sees himself as a teacher of his brother, rather than a rival.
3 Start a conversation
Rather than saying, ‘Well done!’, say, ‘Oh, look at what you made! Tell me about it. This makes me think of outer space – what does it make you think about?’.
4 Give him a new picture of himself
It’s instinctive to offer praise when a child compares himself to his peers and finds himself lacking. If he can’t clamber up the frame everyone else is climbing, you might say, ‘Don’t worry, you’re really good at climbing’. Instead, give him a picture of himself that inspires him to strive, by telling him a story about himself: ‘I’m sure if you want to climb up there you will do it. I remember when you were too young to crawl. But you wanted to get to the dog’s bowl and you kept trying and trying. I had to go to the bathroom and I thought it would be OK to leave you for just a minute. But when I got back, there you were, munching on Rover’s dog biscuits!’.