This wallpaper-praise of ours just wafts over them 'it's just mum so it doesn't count'. It's the teacher’s praise that means more and the approval of their peer group. If we want our praise to register with them it needs to be presented in a way that they can make good use of it. Feedback needs to be given like this:
1.Tell them what you've noticed. This is about your unbiased observations. Keep it clean, that means do not make any assumptions about what their motivations could be or the thoughts that underpin what you have observed.
2.Offer them your suggestion for how to get an even better result so this might be what they could do more of or less of. Offer this in a curious way because you don't actually know, you are simply offering it as an option. Im wondering if you were to do that a bit slower that might work better" or I'm wondering whether if you checked your spelling it would be easier to read".
3.Tell them how well they've done so they feel good about themselves although they have that middle section of feedback to learn from so they can get a better result next time.
Lots of mothers I've worked with in workshops say that their child's behaviour can be so bad sometimes that it's hard to find anything positive to say and that this can be a real challenge but I can assure you that when you find something, it will ensure that the learning is accepted whereas if the last thing you say is negative, they will feel defensive and focus on making excuses for themselves and the learning won't happen. If you are only positive and don't appear to notice any way they could improve then they are going to be poorly equipped for criticism and they are only ever going to stay at the same level rather than improve. Potentially they will also have problems socially if they expect everything they do to be amazing! I've certainly spoken to teachers who complain that children nowadays are poorly equipped for feedback. It's not just that they can't learn from criticism but unless the teacher praises everything they do, they think they don't like them or are being critical.
Positive parenting is about looking for the things they do well and extracting the structure. That means finding out how they did that thing well. A generally shy child might for example, be rather brave in a particular situation so you could point that out and ask them about it. Use the structure I just mentioned, so comment on what you just noticed.
'I noticed you gave good eye contact with Mrs x and you answered her question very clearly and so she could hear what you said.'
Then for the learning.
' I was wondering if this is something you could try next time we meet a neighbour in the street'
And the positive end
‘well done, I could see she enjoyed talking to you'
You can further help the learning by asking what your child was thinking in that situation. Before we do a behaviour we have thoughts and feelings, beliefs. Some of those will be resourceful in that they will be positive and give you a strong chance of making good choices. Others will be negative and we call those limiting. So a limiting belief that the child in the above example might have had would be ' why should I talk to her, she won’t want to talk to me' and they would look down, shuffle and fidget and appear to be shy. You might excuse this saying, I'm sorry he's a bit shy. Your child hears that and thinks ‘oh that's a good way of getting out of speaking to people I can’t be bothered with’ and they use this again and again until it becomes their identity. A more resourceful belief would be ' it would be nice to speak to this lady, I can tell he about my dog' and your child makes a different choice and speaks.
It may be difficult to find out what your child's beliefs are at any point and what choices they feel they have but start a discussion with them so they can think about it and realise it's all about choices and that these choices are theirs, then next time they want to specifically get a result they can think about what would be a resourceful belief for that situation.
Positive parenting is about believing in your child definitely but recognising that by tweaking what they do with feedback and by holding back from praising in a ‘wallpaper’ way without some elements of how they can improve, you are not preparing them for the real world. No one else will praise them like this and they need to learn to fail. Failing is part of life, we learn from our mistakes so if your child is led to believe they don't ever make mistakes and they don't ever fail then when they do, it will be catastrophic because they will have no idea how to pick themselves up because they won't have had the experience.
When you use this new way of parenting positively children will respect your feedback because by simply feeding back what you have observed rather than your assumptions about what has happened, it is more respectful and gives them choices about how to apply the learning. Watch out for them applying it so they can see that you're on their case.
My book ‘Positive parenting with NLP’ goes into a lot more detail on how to apply NLP techniques. Get your free copy by emailing email@example.com