Learning to Speak

I read a status update today at the Evolutionary Parenting Facebook page.

What words/phrases do you use with your younger ones to show you love them and appreciate them and love what they do without falling into the “praise for ability/trait/etc.” trap that harms kids later on?

There were a lot of great suggestions:

  • Be specific and at the time of the action or skill.
  • You did “x”. That was different to yesterday/last week. How did you do it this time?
  • Wow, you really worked hard on/you’ve really been practicing that!
  • I tell them I feel happy when I see or hear them ______. I thank them for trying to ________ or for recognizing _________. I tell them how _____ will help them learn/do new things.

One commenter wrote:

I sportscast, comment on how she might be feeling about what she did, and notice specific things like how much work she put in, or how much she has improved. Eg “Wow, that was a big jump. And you weren’t scared this time! You look pretty happy with yourself- all that practice is really paying off.” If she doesn’t do so well next time I can then remind her that she has done it in the past and with more practice she’ll be able to do it again. Eg “You’re a bit too scared to jump this time, hey? That’s ok- you don’t have to do it every single time. Maybe next time you’re feeling brave you can practice a few more times to get even better at it.”


I try to remember to use phrases like,
“That was a really great effort”
“You worked so hard on that! I’m very proud of you!”
“Thank you for helping (pick that up, your brother do something, etc)”
“That was a very good choice to (stop whining, not hit your brother, etc)”
“I love it when (you’re kind, you use nice manners, share your toys, etc)
“Nice manners/sharing/etc”

In our house we use the phrase “You did it!” pretty often (hence the title of our upcoming book series). When we say that though, we try to avoid empty or vague phrases like good job. Like the comments above, we want to identify what we are praising so that Babe can recreate the actions. Instead of just saying “You did it!” we say “You did it! You squeezed when you sat down and peed on the potty!” or “You did it! You stretched until you reached the toy you wanted to play with!

What do you say to encourage and praise your little one?

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