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The Powerful Art of Praise

Updated: May 29, 2023

Praise is a powerful tool for generating change. If your child is struggling at school or at home, here’s a fantastic way to help them succeed while building up their self esteem. And yes, there is an art to distributing praise.

We had a problem in our house. The kids had (long) grown old enough to help with family meal prep. Yet they wouldn't. No matter how many times we prompted them with "If you're hungry, you'll eat a lot faster if you fill up the water pitcher," or "how many times do I have to ask you," our cries landed on four sets of deaf ears.

Until I changed tactics. Let's Talk Family Success

My youngest artfully laid out the napkins, and I kicked off our weekend dinner by publicly thanking her.

I noticed a tiny twitch of jealousy on her older sibling's face. Attention? Praise?

Her sister wanted it too. I knew I was onto something.

Next week, as family meal hour approached, her older sister asked if she could arrange the cups. "Sure," I said. The napkins and cups went out without a hitch. And once again, I offered a public thanks for both of their invaluable contributions.

The positive praise had done its work and continued to spread throughout our home.

Today, mealtime is a lot more of a communal effort, and praise is a common tool we yield to motivate.

Kids and teens seek positive recognition. Here's how to use the powerful art of praise to help your ADHD child succeed. 1. Demonstrate it

That new client you landed, the mean neighbor you successfully dealt with, the cake you managed not to burn – talk about your wins with your children. Positive talk about struggles and successes will not only model for your child that despite things being difficult, we can overcome those difficulties. It will also help them realize adults are humans. We all have our own struggles and successes. And that's OK.

2. Quantify it

Adapting a new behavior is easier if you get concrete about it. So set a goal. Aim to talk about one of your children's successes for every hour spent together. You may even want to set a phone reminder. Sound overwhelming? It's not. The trick is "what" counts as a success.

3. Simple acts

You don't have to wait for your child’s next hundred. Reach for the small things that deserve recognition. Backpack placed where it belongs? Helped a sibling find a lost object? Got ready for bed on time? Great! Let your child know how proud you are. They'll feel good about it, and you'll start to see the small acts pile up.

4. Get specific

Would you prefer to hear, "you look good"? Or "you look sensational in that backless dress"? Specific compliments carry more weight. So try and get specific with your child. "Wow, you got into pajamas so quickly, and your teeth are all shiny and clean!" carries a lot more weight than "good job getting ready for bed." Loving gestures, like pats or a hug, will add to those good feelings and reinforce the action.

5. Be consistent

Epic tantrum? You probably don't feel like complimenting your child today. But it's just as important, if not more, that you do. Letting your child know they can still have success, even after a “fail” gives them the incentive to strive for it and strengthens their self-confidence. So go ahead. Dig deep in the barrel. Pull out a "great job… feeding the hamster, putting the cereal back." You can do it😉 6. Document the wins

Charting your child's success is a great way for you both to see how much they do and how far they've come. Saying it is one thing. Reading it over time is quite another. Like a winning report card, track and document your child's daily wins, and watch their pride grow. You may want to create a dedicated cork board for this, a sticker chart, a scrapbook, or for the digitally inclined, a Word doc you share and print at the end of the week.

7. Weekly review Do you or your husband have a happy hour at work? Where you kick back a beer and discuss this week's wins? You could do something similar with your kid. Grab their recorded successes from this week and go over them together. Add in a hot chocolate or their favorite snack, and you've got yourself a happy hour! There’s no better way to set the tone for good behavior over the weekend, by calling out this week’s wins.

8. Keep it up!

You'll see pretty quickly that when your child feels valued and seen, they're increasingly motivated to create positive experiences for themselves. And succeed! When that begins to happen, it's important to keep pointing out their successes.”Great job brushing your teeth” “Well done on your homework.”Overtime, positive recognition will simply become the new household language. And your children will automatically gravitate toward it.

9. Find the good. Focus on it.

There will be times when day after day your child– shall we put it nicely - is "a challenge.

"Your instinct is probably to launch into "what were you thinking?!" But that's when your child needs you most to help break their 'bad' cycle and call out their wins." If you need to vent, try saving that for your mom/a friend, and break out the enthusiasm for your child. Whatever "job well done" you can muster, do it! It will help pave the way for a good one.

Give it a try. You got this

Taking the time to acknowledge and converse with your child about their success, and yours will ultimately improve your child’s behavior and the rhythm of your home. But incorporating "success" into your family's dialogue, begins with making a pointed effort. So go ahead, give it a try. We’re here to help.


  1. Praising your child is a highly effective motivational tool

  2. ADHD children can learn to curb bad behaviors when good ones are reinforced

  3. Notice the small wins, they deserve praise

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