New parents ask how soon they can start using the four basic parenting skills. The answer is that parents can start from their first contact with their baby. At this early age, you are mostly training yourself in use of basic, effective parenting skills which convey love and understanding of the baby’s moods and behavior. As the infant becomes a toddler and school age child the same skills increase the child’s self-esteem, cooperation and motivation. The first of the four basic skills is Descriptive Praise.

Descriptive praise is specific rather than general and focuses on effort rather than outcome. Descriptive praise is a powerful motivator. It is used to convey values and shape behavior. (In contrast, evaluative praise is vague,general and does not motivate or increase the child’s confidence. See http://www.parents-central.com/2012/04/). As a parent of a newborn, there are numerous qualities that you appreciate about your newborn from day one. These can be conveyed to your baby in comments such as: “you are very alert,” “you slept soundly,” “you drank so much milk,” “you nurse easily,” “you are calm.” As the child grows, the parent’s descriptive praise reinforces the child’s efforts and progress in physical, emotional and social development. For example, to a 4 year old, “you color within the lines, your drawing is very neat.” To a school age child the parent may say, “you write your numbers on the line and they are in the correct order.” Beginning this skill early reinforces the parents’ observations of the child’s growth and development as well as reinforcing the child’s behavior and effort.

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