How To Balance Praise And Criticism

If your child struggles to read, or has dyslexia, you will know that life can sometimes seem to them like a losing battle. As a parent, it is hard to know how to encourage your child in that struggle while also correcting them when they make a mistake. We have a special tip that helps to keep these two parenting roles – encourager and corrector – well-balanced.

We call it “The Rule of 5”. The Rule of 5 says that you have to say five positive things before you can address a negative.

But I can’t let my child get away with reading a word wrong, can I? You might ask this question – and it’s a good one! Our children do need a lot of correction as they grow. But the problem is that the most well-meaning correction will always come across to a child as a harsh criticism. Even children with high confidence tend to take correction badly. We’ve found that once you practice a praise-first policy, children become more open to hearing instruction. For instance, if your child gets a word wrong, a comment like “This is a tricky one, let’s have another look” is much less of a downer than “No, that’s wrong.” And since you need to combine each correction with five positive comments, that really means praising every word that is right.

We chose the number five, but you might prefer a Rule of 3 or a Rule of 8. The point is not some kind of scientific ratio, but rather setting a bar to jump over. As humans, we always perform better to specific targets. Choose a ratio and stick with it; challenge yourself to achieve your goal in every homework session. Five is a nice round number – we recommend it! Especially if your child struggles with school and has fragile self-esteem, The Rule of 5 not only increases confidence but also will usually improve academic performance.

Stress can be a cause of reading difficulty, because your body responds to stress by shutting down the learning centers in the brain. This is a part of the “fight or flight” response. The body focuses all of its energy on responding to the threat, at the expense of non-essential functioning like digestion and learning. So once some of that school-related stress is lifted, learning becomes easier.

If the idea of the Rule of Five is new to you, give it a try and I am certain that you will be surprised and delighted by the results!

About the Author:
David Morgan is the founder of Oxford Learning Solutions and publisher of the Easyread System. Easyread is an online phonics course designed to help children with dyslexia, auditory processing disorder and highly visual learning styles improve their reading and spelling. Find out more at

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We often write about how to empower your kids to achieve, to feel confident about themselves, and other positive parenting articles specifically devoted to helping parents whose children have a learning disability. seems well aligned with our mission in that way.

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