1. Be Genuine
“You are going to be the next Babe Ruth!” or “That is the most beautiful painting I have ever seen!” People have the best of intentions when they speak like this, but children are smart. They know the probability of either of the above statements being true is minimal. The fact that the statements are exaggerations or untrue, negate the praise for many children. Children with ADD and ADHD may even “play psychologist” and determine that the parent said that because their level is less than ideal and wanted to cheer them up. (Yes, they do that.)
Also, if children feel like parents are just praising them in order to get them to do something, they see it as manipulation and will probably disregard it.
The best trick for parents to show that they are truly genuine is to stick with the facts. Here are some examples:
You are going to be the next Babe Ruth.
You hit the ball really far that time!
That is the most beautiful painting I have ever seen.
This is so colorful or you put so much detail into the girl's face.
2. Be Specific
“Great Job!” or “Well Done” are thrown about so frequently that they can be disregarded even when the parent is trying to be genuine. For praise to motivate, it should be specific. Communicate the exact action, the benefits of the action or characteristic that impacts most. By taking the time to express precisely what is appreciated, parents show that they have really thought about it and evaluated which characteristic they appreciate. Being specific also gives children with ADD and ADHD a specific behavior to repeat!
Instead of “Well Done,” mention the exact action that you appreciated.
I really like how you shared your snack with your brother.
Instead of “Great Job,” share a reason why you consider the job great:
The way you organized your toys makes it really easy to find everything.
3. Praise Something Able to be Changed
Physical characteristics, intelligence and talent are not easily adjusted, so avoid these area when praising. Stick to areas that can be improved with creativity, effort and hard work.
Here are some examples:
Strategy: “That was a cool way to solve the problem!”
Effort: “All that studying really paid off.”
Work: “The ending of your story really surprised me!”
Children with ADD and ADHD appreciate being noticed for positive behaviors and actions, just like anyone else. By following these rules, parents will help their children understand the true pride they feel.