Mom Tip Monday: Factual Commenting

by Heligirl on September 27, 2010

in Daily Ramblings,Mom Tip Monday,Parenting Articles,Positive Discipline

This year is the third year I’ve participated in a local co-op preschool focused heavily on positive discipline. We learn about tricks and techniques during class through the gentle guidance of the kids’ teacher and the parent instructor (there is one of each in every class), as well as several evening seminars offered to those of us in the preschool program (at no additional charge).

Right out of the gate they recommend new parents to the program take the evening seminar called “Parents as Teachers.” This class gives us valuable information about child development as well as a look at why they do what they do in preschool. We go home with all kinds of information on how to guide and discipline our kids in nurturing ways.

For me, two big things stood out from this class. The first was the strong emphasis on encouraging the children to solve their own problems (rather than stepping in) and the other was factual commenting.

Factual commenting didn’t come natural to me. It took work, but after practice I got the hang of it and the change I saw in Sweetness after a few months was really exciting to watch.

Factual commenting is basically providing constant commentary on what your baby, toddler or preschooler is doing. Your child is listening and after enough repetition from you, he will pick up the vocabulary. What’s more, when you’re factually commenting on what your child is doing, you’re focused on her. This deepens your connection with her, helps fill her love cup with positive attention, and just plain pleases her to no end that you’re paying attention and noticing.

Here’s an example:

Your little boy is playing with two toy cars, a red one and a blue one. You’re simply sitting on the floor with him and commenting on what he’s doing, “You’re driving the red car over the pillow. Look at how fast it can go. Oh the red car and blue car crashed into each other. They’re having a race. Where did the blue car go? You saw it go under the chair. You’re being so careful that you don’t bump your head when you get the car.”

Some parents and teachers keep this going ad nauseum, and to be honest, there is only so much I can do. I’m certainly not going nonstop. However, I’ll pick and choose certain things to say and even ask questions. I’ll do this a lot when the kids are first learning language and I’ve seen Sweetness learn vocabulary, like her colors and counting just by me counting the blocks she’s putting into the bin as she does it, or commenting on the colors of things she’s playing with.

However, the real impact of the commenting I did with Sweetness the first two years of her life suddenly came to light as I started doing it with Mr. Man. As soon as she saw me commenting on him playing she jumped right in. Now I’ll hear her in his room with him, “That’s an orange car baby brother. You’re driving on the rug.”

When Little Dude finally decides to start talking, he’ll be off to the races for sure.


Shell September 27, 2010 at 6:17 am

I, too, can’t keep it up all the time. It gets annoying. But, doing it some is great!
Shell recently posted: Im Excited to Be Dumb! And The Meaning of Friendship

Twitter: Heligirl
September 27, 2010 at 9:56 am

Yes, very annoying, but so worth it when I see how much the kids pick up. It’s not forever. I don’t see myself doing it much other than to verbalize I’m paying attention and noticing things the kids are doing once they’re both verbal. 🙂

Colleen September 27, 2010 at 9:48 am

What an interesting concept, but I can so see how that would be beneficial. I think my children are a little old for that at this point. But I will add my one word of wisdom to praise your children whenever you can. That is something I have always done, no matter how small I want them to know how proud I am of them for little changes they have made.

Nick has made such strides this year in his responsibility and maturing as a person that I can’t tell him enough how proud I am. Sorry totally of subject but it is a positive aspect of parenting.

Twitter: Heligirl
September 27, 2010 at 10:04 am

Hi Colleen. I’m really glad you mentioned this. Here is something really important to consider. Praise, believe it or not, is actually not a part of positive discipline. It is in fact not recommended. I wrote a post about it here ( to give background on why the positive discipline camp advises against it. There might be some really helpful stuff there for you.

Basically, praise is another form of external motivator. There are times when it’s just fine, like when you’re truely bursting with pride over an achievement hard earned, but too much praise conditions kids seek that external approval again. Constantly telling our kids we’re proud of them will eventually lead them to look for our pride and approval as a sign they did well. Positive Discipline is based on teaching kids to build their own confidence to feel they’ve achieved. Perhaps you can try, “you’re so proud of yourself” instead of “I’m proud of you,” and “you did it!” instead of “good job.” I was totally praising the kids all the time until I learned this. When I feel the need to praise I use those lines and now I hear Sweetness proclaim “I did it!!” when she pulls something off rather than looking for me to praise her. It’s really satisfying to see her proud of herself.

JP September 28, 2010 at 3:01 am

Wow! I did something right as a parent…just never knew what it was called! …:)JP
JP recently posted: My Life- Woodbury

Twitter: Heligirl
September 29, 2010 at 2:39 pm

Way to go JP!

Making It Work Mom September 28, 2010 at 6:55 pm

I am all for letting my children problem solve – sometimes I have to give my hubby the “look” so he will back off. I am so glad you mentioned praise in one of your responses. This is a new passion of mine. I really feel we are raising a “good job” society and it is a little scary. I talk a lot with my parents and teachers about “specific praise”. I want them to tell the child specifically what was so great about what they just did. The way they talked out a problem, compromised with a friend, perserved with a project, etc.

Love your Monday Tips!

Twitter: Heligirl
September 29, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Thanks! Yes, that “good job” syndrome is a big issue. I’m the same way with my hubby. Whenever he says “good job” I jump in and finish the comment with a specific about what the child did. It can be insincere to say “good job.” Taking the time to comment on what the child did is much more valuable to the child. Great point!

nicole September 29, 2010 at 9:24 pm

Hi I am Nicole from I wanted to drop by and say hi. I really like your blog, and am now a new follower. I would love to have you stop by Colie’s Kitchen if you get a chance.

Twitter: rachael1013
September 30, 2010 at 2:24 pm

I’ve never heard the name factual commenting, but I think this is a great idea. I’ve done it to some extent with my son, and it’s just precious that your daughter is doing it too!
Rachael recently posted: Weekly Winners- In the Yard

Twitter: Heligirl
September 30, 2010 at 8:42 pm

I’ve heard it called a few different things, but this is the one that stuck for me. “Narrating” just sounded so, oh, National Geographic. 🙂

Jen Needham October 1, 2010 at 6:08 pm

That preschool sounds great! We’re in WS too- what preschool is it?
Jen Needham recently posted: The perfect Pear

Twitter: Heligirl
October 2, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Hi Jen. It’s the co-op preschool through South Seattle Community College. The co-op includes five different locations around West Seattle.

Here’s a link to learn more and enroll:

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