Praise your children with a period and not a comma.
Here’s what I mean: your affirmation and encouragement needs to be without qualification, free of compromise, and, most importantly, not serve as a prelude to criticism.
Whenever you follow a bit of encouragement/affirmation/praise with a COMMA and then a BUT . . . well, all that child will hear is what comes after the comma and not what came before it.
So let your words of affirmation stand on their own without qualification.
Instead of “Terrific report card, but let’s bring the math grade up next time,” simply stop at “Terrific report card.”
Instead of “Great game except for that error in the third inning,” simply stop at “Great game.”
Instead of “I was proud of you for how you spoke to Mr. Johnson, but next time make sure to shake his hand with more firmness,” stop at “I was proud of you for how you spoke to Mr. Johnson.”
Now: I’m all for correction. If you’ve heard me preach on child rearing you know well that one of my favorite things to teach is that “‘No’ is a complete sentence.”
But the reverse is true as well. Let your praise be a complete — and simple rather than compound! — sentence as well.
With a period. And no comma.