Research shows praising children five times a day has positive impact

Children who are praised by their parents at least five times a day are better behaved, calmer and less inattentive than those who are not, research has found.

De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) researchers are calling on parents to “catch their children being good” and intentionally praise them as a reward.

They have produced a booklet for parents which explains their method, called Five Praises a Day, which was shown last night (Thursday 10 October) on BBC’s top-rated The One Show.

One Show

Dr Jo Faelling, whose work focuses on parenting and education, said the strategy works because it encourages parents to focus on positive actions and teaches children that they will win praise and attention for good behaviour.

She said: “Where Five Praises a Day works is that we ask parents to almost switch their mindset to look for good behaviour and praise them as soon after the good act as possible, being specific so the child remembers what it was which earned praise.”

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Chartered Psychologist Sue Westwood, a senior lecturer at DMU, added: “As parents, it’s so easy to fall into the trap of paying attention to our children when they are doing something wrong but we want parents to ‘catch them being good’. This approach supports parents by helping them learn how to praise effectively.”

Sue Westwood
Chartered Psychologist Sue Westwood on BBC's The One Show

The booklet explains how parents can use the method and includes a ‘praise diary’ which acts as a useful record.

Tips include:

  • Catch them being good: Increase the number of times you praise your children by looking out for when they do something good, and say so
  • Describe the good behaviour: When you say exactly what you are happy about, the child knows what you mean and is more likely to repeat the behaviour
  • Praise effort rather than ability: Research shows that children respond much better when effort is recognised, rather than achievements
  • Look for little changes: Instead of waiting until the child does something perfectly, notice little changes and recognise them

The BBC researchers asked parents to trial Sue and Jo’s method and see what difference it made to their children.


In a previous study, the DMU team asked parents to take part in a study over a month, asking parents to fill out a questionnaire about their child’s behaviour and wellbeing and being given information on how to praise their child effectively. Results from this study found that the parents who engaged in the ‘Five Praises a Day’ initiative saw a significant improvement in their child’s behaviour over the four week period when compared to a control group. The parents found that simply making small tweaks to their parenting practice led to really positive changes.

Posted on Friday 11 October 2019

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