Parenting Pathway #136: The Power of Specific Feedback

As both a mother of two small children and a performance consultant in organizations, our parenting coach, Christina Lombardo, has observed that the same reasons employees don’t complete work tasks apply also to why children don’t do the things parents ask them to do: 

1. A lack of knowledge or skill
2. A lack of information or feedback
3. A lack of motivation
4. A lack of tools or resources

As an educator, I’m familiar with compelling research that suggests we can overcome these deficits more by providing clear and specific feedback than by using incentives or rewards. The simple act of paying positive attention to specific desirable attitudes, words, and behaviors builds a sense of competence that fuels the motivation to make a real contribution in both the family and the workplace.

In child raising, general compliments like, “You’re such a good girl,” or bribes, like a toy or a treat, risk being counter-productive in the long run. It’s better to describe your child’s good behavior and tell them why it works. This might sound like. “I noticed that you were sharing your toys with your sister today and what a fun time you had playing together.” Or, “What a big help you were to me today, cleaning up the house without complaining.”

Such positive noticing is powerful in its own right, without the need for any transactional reward. Setting up the expectation that “when I am good, I will get the goods” can make for selfish and demanding children.

I’m not saying it’s never appropriate to go out to dinner to celebrate a great report card or some other extraordinary accomplishment. But noticing and providing specific feedback, on a daily basis and without connection to a reward, is far more powerful, because it contributes to your child’s developing sense of competence and to the sense that they have a meaningful contribution to make. 

Coaching Inquiries: Are you more prone to notice or reward good behavior? How could you pay more positive attention to the things your child thinks, says, and does well? How can you be more specific in the feedback that you give?

To reply to this Pathway, use our Feedback Form. To learn more about our Parenting Coaching Programs and to arrange for a complementary Parenting coaching session, Click Here or Email Megan.

May you be filled with goodness, peace, and joy.

Megan Tschannen-Moran (
LifeTrek Coaching International
121 Will Scarlet Lane
Williamsburg, VA 23185-5043

Phone: (757) 345-3452
Fax: (772) 382-3258

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