What to Say to Your Child to Encourage Positive Behaviour

Descriptive Praise is about noticing and mentioning exactly what your child has done right. 


When you use praise effectively you motivate your children to believe in themselves and do well.

Descriptive praise not only improves the general atmosphere of the home but it is the most effective way to get our children to do the right thing. It is very effective in getting your children to be more co-operative. When we point out what they’re doing right it motivates our children to do more of it. When we pay attention to their positive behaviour rather than their negative actions they will start to seek positive rather than negative attention.

Below are some examples of descriptive praise. Remember that you are being as descriptive as possible by praising your child as an individual, as encouraging as possible, as genuine as possible, and as factual as possible, by noticing small improvements in positive behaviour and mentioning a quality that your child is portraying.



A child who regularly forgets books at school:

You remembered to bring home your homework book, that took clear thinking. You're showing great organizational skills.”


A child who shows disrespectful behaviour: 

“You looked at that lady in the eyes when she was talking to you just now, that was respectful and polite.”

A child who doesn't listen the first time they are asked to do something:

“You went to get the place mats to set the table when I asked you to, that was cooperative.”


A child who needs reminding often:

“You’re brushing your teeth without me having to remind you, you're showing initiative!”

A child who feels discouraged after failure:

“You got back on your bike even though you fell off, that's very brave of you”.

A child who forgets the "usual" routine, and needs reminding:

“I see you unpacked your lunch box, so you’ve already done one of the three things you need to do when you come home, and you didn't need reminding”.


A child who dawdles and takes time getting ready in the morning:

I see you’ve taken your pyjamas off without me reminding you to get ready, so you’ve taken the first step in getting dressed.”


A child who struggles to get started with homework:

“You’re sitting at the table at the right time and you’ve unpacked your books. You look like you’re getting ready to start your homework.”


A child who doesn't make their bed in the mornings:

"I see you've put your duvet on your bed. That's a great start to making your bed."

A child who struggles to problem solve independently:

“I noticed that when you tried the first time and it didn’t work you tried again a different way. That's very persistent of you, and you're using initiative to problem solve."


A child who gives up easily:

 “You kept on trying to get those two pieces to fit together even though you found it difficult. You were very determined."


A child who is unable to sit still for long periods of time:

“You’ve been sitting still for five minutes. You've been very patient. In another five minutes we can take a stretch.”

A child with learning difficulties:

“I see you covered up your spelling word and tried to picture it in your head. That’s a good way to learn a new word. You're trying a new way of learning to ensure you know your work.”


A child who struggles with anxiety and is reserved:

You felt shy but still went and asked the shopkeeper where the apples were - that was brave.”


A child who is bullied:

“You stood up for yourself when that boy pushed you – you used your words and said “I don’t want to be pushed. That was very courageous”.


A child who is battling to make friends:

“You are being a really good friend to that girl. You saw that she tripped and you offered to help her, and then exchanged names. That was very kind and friendly.”

A child who battles to get dressed quickly:

“You’ve been practicing getting dressed quickly and I’m sure you’re much faster than you were at the beginning of term. That must be helpful when you’re getting changed for sport.”

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