Encouragement can be an effective teaching tool and the more specific the better.
We often say, “That’s terrific!” as an automatic response to our children’s actions.
Bobby shows you the painting he brought home from school. “That’s terrific.”
Kelly helps set the dinner table. “That’s terrific.”
Noah puts the blocks back where they belong on the shelf. “That’s terrific.”
Roger helps Noah put the blocks away. “That’s terrific.”
“That’s terrific” is fine, but it doesn’t help our children understand why what they did was good. Children need to know what they did, why it worked, or why it shows they are capable. Try the following eight suggestions to give children specific feedback to recognize their achievements and encourage their learning.
- Use Openers – Say “I see you,” “I hear you,” or “I noticed,” followed by a description. “I noticed you used yellow and blue paint to make the green leaves on your tree.”
- Notice and give feedback about efforts. “Kelly, you took special care folding the napkins. We will enjoy having dinner at this lovely table you set.”
- Invite children to talk. Your child’s learning is enhanced when he talks about his explorations and creations. “Noah, you organized the blocks nicely. How did you decide on which shelves to put them?”
- Pay attention to details. When talking about his painting, tell Bobby what shapes, lines, colors, textures, and forms you see in his work. “Bobby, look at all of the different shades of green you made when you mixed yellow and blue paint. Tell me how made the dark green.”
- Say thank you. When your child is helpful, thank him. “Thank you for putting the blocks away so nicely, Noah. The next time you or your brother wants to use them, they are ready.”
- Identify a goal before responding. Ask yourself: Do I want to acknowledge a positive behavior, an act of kindness, or use of problem-solving skills? To encourage self-regulation you might say, “Roger, how kind you are. You helped Noah put the blocks away even though you didn’t get them out.”
- Use mirroring. When Kelly sets the table by herself for the first time, notice her smile, smile back, and give her a specific comment. “Look at what you did! Just yesterday you asked me to help and now you can do it on your own.”
- Highlight your child’s work. Invite your child to help find a place to hang his painting. “Bobby, where would you like to hang your painting so everyone can enjoy seeing it?”