8 Tips for Using Positive Reinforcement to Help Your Child Learn English as a Foreign Language

8 Tips for Using Positive Reinforcement
As a parent, you play a crucial role in supporting your child’s learning journey. Promoting a positive attitude towards learning English will teach your child to associate it with positive feelings and rewards. They will crave praise and attention, try to learn more, and demonstrate their skills before anyone listens. Your job as a parent is to smile proudly and encourage them. Here are some helpful tips on how to do that:

  1. Praise Any Effort to Speak in English:
One of the most effective ways to use positive reinforcement is to praise your child’s attempt to speak in English. Even if their English is not perfect, praise them for their effort and encourage them to keep practising.

  1. Be Spontaneous, Specific, and Sincere:
Instead of gushing out generic words of encouragement, praise your child usingdescriptive and specific language. The less general the encouragement, the more likely it would suit the situation at hand; hence it will be perceived as sincere. Instead of just saying, “Wow! What an awesome story you wrote!” You can add: “I especially love how you used all these different words to describe your main character. I can really picture her in my mind!”

  1. Don’t Focus on Mistakes:
When your child makes a mistake while speaking English, don’t point it out. Instead, focus on the positive aspects of what they said and praise them for their effort.

  1. Correct Them Indirectly:
When your child makes a mistake, correct them indirectly by repeating what they said in question form. For example, if your child says, “I want to go to the libeery,” you can respond with, “That’s a good idea. Let’s go to the library.”

  1. Reward Them for Their Effort:
When your child speaks in English, reward them with praise and a physical reward, such as a high-five or a hug. If they complete their first English course, take them to the park and have fun.

  1. The “Designated English Speaker”:
Find and create everyday opportunities for your child to use English on your behalf:

  • Ask your child to talk to a virtual assistant
(like Siri, Alexa, Bixby, or Google Assist) and ask for the weather report, the time, or what they should make for dinner.

  • Ask for their help (even if you don’t need it) to read a product name on an online English
shopping site (you can switch your Amazon to English…).

  • Encourage them to order food at a restaurant abroad or ask for directions when you’re on vacation.
  • Pretend to have forgotten an English word.

    Describe the item you are trying to name, and let your child help. You can help them out if needed, but say a similar-sounding word or say the word incorrectly and let them correct you. Their little chests will swell with pride!

  1. Use English as a “Secret Language”:
Encourage your child to use English as a secret example, you can agree to use English when you want to tell each other a secret or something special, like when you’re escorting your child to a school event, and they want to tell you something about their classmate they don’t want anyone to hear. This will make English feel like a fun and exciting language to use. It also gives your child a chance to practice English in a low-pressure environment where mistakes are okay, and the emphasis is on communication and fun.

  1. Watch English-Language Media together with your child.
Pick their favourite animated movie – one they have watched over a hundred times already – and watch it together in English. By watching something they already know and enjoy, they can focus on learning the language without feeling overwhelmed or frustrated. As they watch, you ask them questions about what’s happening because you are “struggling” to understand the language. This can be a helpful way to build confidence and motivation as they feel proud of their new language skills. At Helen Doron, we firmly believe that teaching English is about so much more than just language acquisition. Our approach focuses on creating a safe and nurturing environment that empowers children to become fluent and confident speakers. For us, children come first, and they feel comfortable taking the lead, even in a foreign language. While adults are terrified of making mistakes or sounding silly, children are uninhibited. They’re not afraid to show their emotions through speech, dance, song and play. By creating an atmosphere where there are no wrong answers and any attempt to speak is praised, children beam with confidence and take charge of their learning process. By giving children this level of autonomy, we help build their sense of ownership and responsibility for their learning.