• Question: In pre-schoolers, should you acknowledge bad behaviour or just praise good behaviour? Or both?

    Asked by drjessicahamer to Rebecca, Jessica, Gaia, Emma on 2 Mar 2018.
    • Photo: Gaia Scerif

      Gaia Scerif answered on 2 Mar 2018:


      Praise good behaviour, and highlight (positive) changes in bad behaviour – to encourage meta-cognition or one’s awareness of how bad behaviour is not inevitable. This is a very hard one to tackle. But there is pretty good evidence that while praise is a good thing, but teaching self-regulation is hard. However, drawing attention to self-regulation when it happens may be a way to develop it. Peer interactions here help too.

    • Photo: Jessica Horst

      Jessica Horst answered on 14 Mar 2018:


      I completely agree with Gaia.

      As a parent, I have found two recent studies very informative. In this one (https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.00928/full) the authors found that giving 5-year-old children gestures like a thumbs up or high five was very motivating for them. There is another one (I’m struggling to find the link), which demonstrated that children were more motivated to help others when an adult called them a “helper” (like an identity) than when an adult just referred to what they had done (“a big help” or “thanks for helping.”).

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