• Pepi M. Silverman

Encourage Positive Behavior With Attention To Authentic Praise


All children benefit from at least one person in their lives that stands out as their “champion”. As children and families embark on a new school year, it is critical to shift the conversation from weaknesses to strengths. This idea seems very straightforward, but unfortunately, most teachers give far more attention to providing corrective comments, than they do to providing authentic praise.

Educating students is a highly complex, multi-faceted activity and guiding students toward academic and behavioral achievements must incorporate “correction”, but to foster student success it is equally important to provide students acknowledgement of positive performance as well. Research has identified that in most public schools, those positive comments are given at a much lower percentage than those more familiar corrective comments. In order to shift the attention from corrective to encouragement it has been suggested that the ratio of correction should be 1:4; therefore, for each correction, students should receive four “authentic” positive praise statements. The key to this is the concept is “authentic” praise.

All people appreciate kind statements, but authentic praise is much more powerful. The praise statement must incorporate specific language that identifies the positive behavior that merits the praise. In the simplest of terms, tell kids what they’re doing “right”, even if that behavior is embedded in inappropriate behavior. For example, if a student is calling out in the classroom, which would merit a corrective comment, the teacher could acknowledge the student’s interest in participating, but provide guidance on how to share their ideas in a more appropriate manner.

This strategy also applies to guidance at home. Parents work so hard to support their children, but just as teachers correct their students, parents can also engage in more corrections than praise. Kids are drawn to attention and on occasion, their attraction to that attention can result in negative behavior because corrective feedback may be more pronounced. By decreasing the level of intensity provided for correction and increasing attention when kids demonstrate positive behavior, parents can shift their children’s attention, so that they seek out that larger positive praise.

Be the champion by encouraging positive performance through the power of authentic praise.

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© 2018 by Pepi M. Silverman, Bridge Educational Advocacy