Most parents know that socially praising children is a good thing…lets hope so. We all know it should be a major part of the way we interact with our children. Some are better than others. Its hard to fake. Some might say, “it’s just not my personality to be bubbly” or “I can’t be that excited after a horrendous day at work.” I get it.
Sometimes being “bubbly” or excited is hard, not to mention the pure fact that it is sometimes even difficult to find the “good” in much of anything after your boss yelled at you, you got a flat tire and burned dinner. I certainly know about “not feeling it” when coming home from a tough day on the job. Why does it matter?
Why do we saying these things? My answer would be, “I’m letting her know I approve of and appreciate the fact she said ‘please’ or that she put the knife down when I asked.” I imagine that is about the answer you would give. What if how you said it is really boring? You will end up sounding like Charlie Brown’s teacher (e.g., “whaaa wha whaaa whaa whaa”) and it will not mean anything to your kid.
People who do this all day for a living (teachers, behavior analysts, etc.) often get into a habit of all of our “good jobs” sounding the same and therefore becoming less and less powerful each time we boringly say it just to say it. BORING and, worse yet, ineffective.
Mix it up…use different words, be specific to the behavior you are praising, but more importantly, add a little flavor to it. This will be even more important when commenting on not-so-common good things. There is a difference between your half-jaded “thanks for not peeing all over my shoes” and your very excited “I’m so happy you learned how to keep all your pee pee in the toilet!!! Hooray!”
Give it a try (act if you have to).