EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


January 26, 2014

A little bit of genuine praise goes a long way

Dear Doctor,

Recently I read that telling your child good things is not the best way to discipline. I don’t see why and would like to hear what you would say about that.

Positive Mother

Dear Mother,

Wherever did you read one should not celebrate “good things” with a child? For that matter, don’t you think we all could use a dose of positive affirmation?

What I suspect you may have read is a current recognition that praising a child for every piece of behavior is overdoing it. I have long believed the “good job” mantra is wearing thin. Praise is great for children, but there should be rules.

Larsen’s short list of rules to use in praising a child are:

1. Let it be genuine.

2. Let it be simple.

3. Let it be frequent enough to be meaningful but rare enough to be worth something.

4. Let it be appropriate.

Genuine praise should be a recognition of behavior one wishes to see increase. It should be authentic, not contrived or pro forma.

A simple recognition is more appropriate than a rave. “You must feel good about that” is always much better than, “You are a true genius!” Besides that, what is the kid going to do for an encore?

Frequency should vary. Every time a youngster cleans his/her room does not merit a paroxysm of gratitude. The timing and frequency should vary. That’s how it is in real life.

Appropriateness means matching the praise to the fabric of life. For example, saying a simple “thank you” is enough for putting the clothes in the hamper. Set a goal for yourself regarding the values you want to support in praise and recognition.

In all this remember: A little can go a long way.


Dr. Larry Larsen is an Andover psychologist. If you would like to ask a question, or respond to one, you can email Dr. Larry Larsen at lrryllrsn@CS.com.

Text Only | Photo Reprints

Photos of the Week