Praise is one of the oldest parenting strategies, but research finds that only certain kinds really enhance behavior and changes attitudes. Psychologist Joan Grusec found that kids who were frequently praised by their mothers whenever they displayed generous behavior actually tended to be less generous on a day-to-day basis than other children.Why? More than likely, the children weren't personally committed to the trait—in this case, generosity—that their moms were praising them for.Without their moms' encouraging words, there was really no reason for them to continue doing generous actions on their own, because their good behavior was guided by social approval and not their own internal convictions. Encourage your kids' charitable actions, but be conscious of how you praise and what you say so they understand the value of the deed.
• Praise the deed, not the child. "That was so kind when you shared your toys with Mariettza."
• The praise is specific. "You were a good host in making sure everyone got the same-size piece of cake. I think everyone enjoyed the play group much more this time."
• The praise is deserved. "Grandpa loved your painting.You took such time, and he really appreciated it."
• The praise is genuine. The best reinforcement is always sincere and lets the child know exactly what she did that was right: "I know it took effort not to buy the toy, but you used good judgment when you said that you really didn't need it."
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