In my class at NYU this week, the professor was discussing the idea of praise as an excellent strategy for behavioral modification. Interestingly enough, those of us parents, teachers, and friends think that we are giving ample praise to others, when we are actually not giving enough.
Most of us strive for attention. Whether it is positive or negative attention, we still yearn for it. A great way to give someone attention in order reinforce that their behavior happens again, is called positive reinforcement.
We have to be careful, however about the kind of praise that we give someone. If you have a child that is excellent in math, and always does well, telling them how great they are in math, won't necessarily make any difference or have any significant meaning for them. But if that same math wizard struggles with writing, giving them praise for their efforts or small accomplishments in that subject will go a long way. "Hey Milly, you worked so hard on that writing assignment. I can tell you put in a great deal of effort. Your work really shows that. Well done!" Praising effort fosters motivation and drive. Praising without substance doesn't.
So don't be afraid to give praise. Lots of it. But praise with meaning, substance, and purpose. That way it is good for you and good for the ones you love. See how often you can give praise to your kids, spouse, friends, and co-workers for specific tasks, effort, hard work, and motivation. Keep a log or mental note to see if that effort fostered positive behavior. I am sure you will see results.
- "Thanks Sally for feeding the cats tonight. I really appreciate you taking the time away from your homework to do it."
- "Julie, I noticed that you have been putting your dirty clothes in the hamper lately. Thanks for remembering to do that."
- "Billy you have been getting all of your homework in on time this month. That's awesome."
And by the way... I sincerely appreciate the effort you made reading my blog! It really means a lot to me. I hope you got something out of it.