Praise can be defined as the expression of warm approval. The action of praising baby occurs when baby does something new such as reaching a motor milestone or speaking a new sound. It also occurs when baby does something familiar in a new and improved way, which may also include motor skill development. For example, when baby crawls with improved coordination and strength her mother may say, “Good Girl!” Although baby may not exactly understand the words, she knows by the tone of your voice and the bright smile on your face that she has done something good. This communication from a parent serves as feedback for her so she will know what actions to repeat (and which to avoid).
PRAISE AND THE 5 SENSES
Baby hears your message of encouragement most clearly when it is echoed through more than one of the 5 senses. If you speak carefully chosen words of affirmation in a warm tone of voice which she can hear, smile at her and nod your head which she can see, and maybe pat her on the back which she can feel, she understands your affirmation through 3 sensory systems: visual, auditory, and touch. This is very clear communication for baby. The other two senses, smell and taste, are used with animals when we give our dog a treat to eat when he sits upon command.
WORD CHOICES FOR BABY PRAISE
One of the most commonly used expressions today for praising baby is, “Good job!” The baby rolls for the first time and mother says, “Good job!” The baby crawls for the first time and the father says, “Good job!” This phrase of “Good job” should be crossed off of our list of words for encouragement of baby development. Why? First off, regarding motor skill development, what baby is doing is not a job at all. It is a movement they have learned for getting around in life. Later on, when they learn a chore such as washing dishes you can say “Good job!”
Secondly, the use of the same phrase for each new skill learned does not guide them toward identifying the word that is associated with the skill. Instead, choose words that describe the skill they are learning. It is much more beneficial for the development of a baby if you say, “Beautiful rolling, Mary! Good girl,” when she learns to roll and follow with “Good crawling,” later on when she learns to crawl. Adjectives to combine with the name of skills for affirmation include beautiful, outstanding, excellent, good, great, and more. And don’t forget Elmo’s lesson above from Maestro Gustavo Dudamel on Sesame Street’s youtube channel, when you see something “very great and amazing,” such as your baby crawling for the first time, you can say, ‘STUPENDOUS!”
INGREDIENTS FOR BABY PRAISE
- Tone of Voice: A positive and encouraging tone in the voice is like a gentle massage to her–it feels good.
- Facial Expression: Smile and nod your head.
- Choice of Words: Identify the skill baby is learning.
- Touch: Include an occasional pat on the back with your words.