You might be wondering why behavior-specific praise is a topic I often discuss? Well, it happens to be one of the CHEAPEST and MOST EFFECTIVE strategies in your positive reinforcement toolbox? Do you find that saying “good job” all the time feels dull and insincere? All you need are a few key components, and you can step up your praise game!
Let’s start with a quick review…
Behavior-specific praise consists of the verbal acknowledgment of a desirable behavior, providing the recipient with immediate attention and feedback. Since praise functions as a form of positive reinforcement (for most people), it also increases the likelihood that the positive behavior will occur again in the future.
You can also learn more by reading an older blog post I wrote on this same topic. Fun Fact: there is a well-loved infographic attached. Click here to check it out!
Why is behavior-specific praise important?
First and foremost, as I mentioned above, praise costs nothing, can occur anywhere, and is quick and easy to deliver. Additionally, research has shown that giving specific praise strengthens interpersonal relationships and increases on-task behavior. The key is getting the “magic” equation just right!
Behavior-specific praise should include three main components.
First, start with the child’s name. Then make a positive statement (this is where your “good job” type phrase comes into play.) Finally, end with a comment about the observed desirable behavior.
Let me show you an example and a non-example. Here is the scenario: You ask your child to go upstairs and brush their teeth before bed. They decided to stall for a few minutes before ultimately retreating to the bathroom as you instructed.
Non-Example(s): “Good Job.” This statement is missing additional information about what was good about that sequence of events, therefore, you may inadvertently reinforce Jack’s behavior of stalling before bed.
In order to give behavior specific praise, you might say something like, “Jack, I am really proud of the way you came upstairs to brush your teeth before bed.” In this example you can clearly see all three components. The child’s name (Jack), the positive statement (I’m really proud), and the observed desirable behavior (came upstairs to brush your teeth).
Conversely, if you had simply said, “Good job” you might find that you inadvertently reinforce Jack’s behavior of stalling before bed. Additionally, if you draw attention to the fact that Jack stalled for a few minutes before going upstairs, it is possible that you end up providing positive reinforcement to the non-desirable behavior instead.
Don’t forget that behavior-specific praise is most effective when it is delivered at least four times more frequently than a correction. Click here to read more about using the 4:1 ratio of positive praise.
Now for the good stuff! I created a fun FREE printable in honor of teacher appreciation week.
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