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Strategies for Giving Effective Praise in the Classroom

The power of effective praise in early childhood education.

Strategies for Giving Effective Praise in the Classroom

Strategies for Giving Effective Praise in the Classroom

Early childhood educators play a vital role in shaping a child’s learning and development during their formative years. One effective tool at your disposal is the use of effective praise, which must go beyond simply complimenting a child’s actions or behaviors to be truly impactful. Simply saying “good job” repeatedly just won’t cut it. Instead, effective praise should involve specific, genuine, and intentional feedback that reinforces positive behavior and encourages continued growth and development. 

When used correctly, effective praise can build a child’s self-esteem, encourage positive behavior, and create a positive learning environment for all. In this article, we’ll explore the importance of effective praise in early childhood education and provide tips and strategies for using this technique in your classroom. 

What is effective praise?

Effective praise is effort-based and behavior-specific. When you praise a child, you highlight the effort they put into completing something or a positive behavior they displayed. 

While common phrases like “good job” and “awesome work” may come to mind, using them in isolation is ineffective. 

Effective praise involves three steps:

  • Show your approval: Start by using verbal and nonverbal behavior to show appreciation for a child’s actions. For example, say, “Great work” to a child while giving them a thumbs up. 

  • Describe the positive behavior you saw: Next, be specific about the behavior they demonstrated leading to the praise. For example, “I like how you helped Rashaun pick up his crayons when they fell on the floor.”

  • Describe how using good behavior will help your child or others: Finally, explain why their behavior benefits them or others. For example, “When you help your classmate, it shows them that you care and makes them feel good. You should feel proud of yourself as well.”

Steps two and three of this process are what makes your praise effective. Incorporating these steps, instead of simply saying “good job,” can make all the difference in how impactful your words are to a young child.

Why is praise important?

Offering praise to young children is so simple its impact is often underestimated and underused. 

Studies show that teachers who regularly praise children in their classrooms develop better relationships with them. Doing so can also build a child’s self-esteem and confidence and promote a love of learning. 

Promotes a positive self-image

At a young age, children look to their teachers for praise and encouragement. They want to know that what they’re doing is seen and valued. When they receive genuine, specific recognition for their efforts, they feel valued and respected, helping to develop a positive self-image and a sense of pride in their abilities. 

Leads to better classroom management

Effective praise is a behavior management technique you can use regularly. According to the study mentioned above, when educators implement effective praise, it can also reduce disruptive and off-task behaviors. That’s because it’s a form of positive reinforcement, meaning when children receive specific feedback about what they do well, they’re more likely to repeat that behavior. For example, the child you praise for helping their peers clean up their toys will be more likely to repeat that behavior in the future. 

Builds a love of learning

Finally, effective praise can promote a love of learning in children. When young children receive positive feedback about their efforts, they’re more likely to be engaged and motivated to learn. It’s essential to praise them not only when they provide a correct response but also when they try. 

Praising their effort will encourage them to continue trying and learning in all areas of their lives. Knowing that their effort, not the correct answer, will earn them praise can also reduce frustration for children when they are completing difficult tasks. Positive reinforcement can also help children develop a growth mindset, where they see challenges as opportunities to learn and grow. 

As you implement effective praise in your classroom regularly, you’ll likely see more positive behaviors from your preschoolers. You want to share that progress with their families! Using software like brightwheel’s daily activity report encourages communication with families. You can use it to share photos and videos of fun activities or just let them know about something positive that happened during the day. Either way, brightwheel makes it easy to keep families informed and strengthens the home-to-school connection.

Effective praise and ineffective praise

Praise can be effective and meaningful or ineffective, leading to fear of failure or dependency on external validation. That’s why it’s crucial to understand the difference between effective and ineffective praise and how to apply them as an early childhood educator. Here are the key differences between the two. 

Effective praise

Giving effective praise to children involves using the three steps—showing approval, describing positive behavior, and describing how using the good behavior they displayed will help them and others.

Effort, behavior, or accomplishment focused

Along with those steps, effective praise is specific, genuine, and individualized. You should highlight a child’s effort, behavior, or accomplishments while avoiding praising their inherent qualities or intelligence. 

Here’s the difference. If you’re highlighting a child’s inherent qualities, you might say, “Wow! You’re so smart.” On the other hand, highlighting their effort sounds like, “Good job! You worked hard to solve that tricky problem. When you practice difficult things, it helps you learn even more.”


Also, you want to individualize the praise as much as possible. Blanket statements you say to the entire class won’t be as powerful as praise tailored to one child. 


Finally, you should consider differences when providing praise. Different cultures and personalities may have varying needs, expectations, and values regarding recognition. Also, keep in mind that praising someone from a particular culture may be harmful if it reinforces stereotypes. For example, praising a Black child for being articulate might be intended as praise, but can reveal that you don’t have the expectation that Black children can be well-spoken. This type of praise can be insensitive and send the message that teachers have low expectations for certain groups of children.

In addition, some children may not react well to public praise and would instead prefer it be a one-to-one conversation. The more you learn about a child and their needs, the better you can personalize the praise you provide. 

Ineffective praise

Ineffective praise tends to be vague and insincere. 

Praises innate qualities

Ineffective praise commonly focuses on a child’s innate qualities, such as intelligence or talent, instead of praising their effort or behavior. Praising a child for an inherent quality (e.g., “You’re good at coloring”) doesn’t tell them what they did well or how to improve. It simply tells them something that comes natural to them. While acknowledging a child’s skill isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, it’s not effective praise. 


Many young children can determine the difference between sincere and insincere praise. Praising a child for something they didn’t do or exaggerating their actions can backfire. Instead of helping to build their self-esteem and improving your relationship with them, it can break their trust in you as the teacher. 

Used too often

Too much of a good thing can quickly become bad, and praise is no exception. Praising children too frequently can lead to an over-reliance on external validation. Children who receive too much praise may develop a fear of failure and become less likely to take risks or try new things. That’s why you must balance offering praise with sharing opportunities for growth.

Effective praise examples

Effective praise involves recognizing and reinforcing positive behaviors and attitudes in children while helping them build confidence and self-esteem. Here are some examples to help you better understand how to give effective praise that’s specific, sincere, and meaningful as an early childhood educator. 

  • “Good work sharing your toys with your friends. That was very kind of you. I know your friends understand how much you care about them when you do that.”
  • “Great work figuring out that tricky puzzle. I can tell you’re getting better at putting puzzles together.”
  • “You did well listening and waiting your turn during circle time. It made it easier for me to teach and for your classmates to listen.”
  • “You were courageous standing up for your friend. You should feel proud of yourself.”
  • “I can see how much effort you put into writing your name. The more you practice, the easier it’ll be.”
  • “Great job stringing those beads until you figured it out. You showed great determination, which is helpful when you’re trying hard things!”

Create a classroom culture of effective praise

Effective praise is an essential tool for early childhood educators that will help promote positive behavior and productive learning experiences in the classroom. You can build trust and foster a positive classroom environment by providing specific, descriptive, and genuine feedback. By incorporating these strategies into your teaching practice (and encouraging peer-to-peer praise), you can help your preschoolers develop confidence, self-esteem, and a love for learning that can last a lifetime.

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