Do you ever see something and think, “How crazy is that? It was like it was there for me.” I’ve had this happen dozens of times over the last few years. Yesterday a parent shared with me her “it was there for me” experience. A picture in the exam room of her pediatrician’s office said this,
“Nothing improves a child’s hearing more than praise.”
Do you know how hard it is to provide praise? A lot harder than criticism. We can talk all day about what annoys us, but identifying what makes us happy and telling the other person about it is another story.
Providing praise is especially important for children with Down syndrome. As children with DS grow they are like other children – they make mistakes, they misbehave, they assert their own will against ours. As parents, caregivers, teachers, and therapists it is easier to spot the undesired behavior… forgetting that encouragement is important too.
Children pick up very quickly on praise. One of my favorite apps/video games is called “Buddy Bear.” If the child answers the question correctly she’s praised by the narrator, “good job!” My little patients learn this almost immediately and begin to respond simultaneously with the app, “good job!”
Even my tiny patients (pre-walkers) learn to expect praise during therapy. They clap and yell, “Yay!” as soon as they complete one activity – like putting a block in a bucket – even if it was a miss! We all want praise. We want to be appreciated and feel like we’re doing the right thing. We want to know expectations and live up to them.
Do you get tired of saying, “good job?” Are you looking for more effective ways of encouraging your child with DS? Learn provide praise that is descriptive, sincere, and enthusiastic. Aim the praise at a specific behavior.
In providing descriptive praise for children with Down syndrome it is important to be clear. Tell the child what they did correctly, not what they avoided. Affirm the desired behavior that the child demonstrated.
Here are some examples:
- The 8-year-old who picked up his shoes and put them away, “You put your shoes away. You did it by yourself!” Not, “You didn’t throw your shoes. Good job!”
- The 5-year-old learning to play Don’t Break the Ice, “You waited. You’re taking turns!” Not, “You didn’t take an extra turn!”
Once you get into the specific praise habit you won’t find yourself actively looking for chances to praise the child as frequently. Describing what your child does right will come easily.
Here are some more resources on providing praise: