Emily’s parents came to see me a few months ago, worried that their daughter was temperamental, clingy, demanding and generally difficult. Having visited them at home, I could testify that their description was accurate!
We worked together to better understand Emily’s emotional needs and perspective, and of course, to put some practical skills into place.
The skill that was most useful for Emily and her family is called Descriptive Praise. It is about noticing and mentioning little positive changes in a child’s behaviour, using clear and specific language. For three year olds, it is best to describe at least 20 different positive facts every day. When children are so young, descriptive praise is sometime all you need to transform the atmosphere at home from anger and criticism to harmony and cooperation.
On the way to nursery this morning, Mum said to little Emily:
‘You were a fantastic eater today and chose a great choice of different foods. You will grow big and healthy! And you were so kind to spend time with your baby sister, reading her a lovely story and helping teach her story listening.’
to which Emily replied in a tiny yet confident voice:
‘I’m trying my best’