Saying "Good Job" to our Kids Isn't Enough
Today's spin on #GivingTuesday focuses on giving powerfully positive feedback to the kids in our lives. A "Positive Descriptive Acknowledgement" (PDA) is a very fancy term for positive verbal feedback and when implemented in the classroom and at home, the change in your child's negative behavior could be transformational. I have personally seen this to be true as kiddos learn what it means to be safe, responsible, friendly, helpful, and kind in the classroom at a very young age.
Using these Positive Descriptive Acknowledgements at home with my own has been the most valuable teaching tool I've been able to apply to parenting.
Think of a time you were at a job, volunteering, or even doing chores around your house as a kid. Were you encouraged when you did well or were you only addressed when things went wrong? If so, how did it make you feel?
I can think of my own experience of feeling under-appreciated or even a sinking feeling like someone was waiting to see me mess up so they could call it out. This is what I hope to avoid by choosing to acknowledge the good more often than I acknowledge the negative. Even though we have to correct in order to teach what is good and acceptable behavior, you'd be surprised how negative behavior may diminish just by adding in PDAs. You may be in a stage with your kid where it feels impossible to do more positive than negative feedback. There is no guilt or shame in struggling to stay positive through the difficult behavior. You are not alone! Practicing giving positive feedback takes time and kids need so much repetition to learn concepts. Get your partner, babysitters, teachers, grandparents on board as well. The more your child hears that they are good and loved, the more they will flourish and want to choose good and loving ways of being.
When we take ownership over the good we can bring to our community and families, there is an energizing emotion in that connectedness. When we give PDAs in context on a daily basis, they will begin to understand these intangible concepts.
I first learned about PDAs through trainings I received through the Center on the Social & Emotional Foundations for Early Learning (CSEFEL). This organization has wonderful trainings that are designed for classrooms to promote more social & emotional wellness for all children, regardless of temperament or personality. The goal behind PDAs is to verbally acknowledge the good you see your child doing and giving language for the positive behavior. When you are able to give your child PDAs on a regular basis, they can learn at an early age what it looks like to be kind, respectful, friendly, and responsible. These can be difficult concepts for young children, but if your child picks up a tissue from the floor and throw it away, a simple verbal affirmation can teach him little by little that what he did was responsible.
Why isn't "good job" enough? What makes a PDA different?
Saying "Good job!" to children is almost like an involuntary reflex. Leaving it at that two-word phrase can be confusing to a child when it's not connected to something concrete. Without a concrete verbal indicator, they are left in the dark why they're a "good job." PDAs are the concrete verbal feedback, telling them why their action was significant.
Your daughter stops running when you ask them to slow down.
"What a great listener! Your body is safe when you are walking."
Your son finds a tissue on the ground, picks it up, and throws it away.
"Wow! That was so responsible and helpful of you to pick up trash and throw it away!"
You Statements vs I statements
This is probably the most intentional shift that makes PDAs more effective. I have said "I like how you cleaned up the blocks!" countless times in the classroom. The CSEFEL training taught me that making "you statements" instead can turn that compliment into a teaching moment. Instead I could've said "You are so responsible by cleaning up those blocks. That was very helpful!" This way, we can verbally say those positive concepts that we hope our kiddos can learn. We can take everyday transitions and chores and use them as teachable moments.
I hope that in this holiday season and as you're gearing up for the paradox of being super busy yet anticipating slowing down and having more time with your family, that you can take some time to practice PDAs with the ones you love. Practice it on your spouse or your sister! And remember that weaving this in to your everyday language will take time, so be patient. It will be worth it :)