What Should You Say to Children Instead of Good Job?

We all said that. When our child first climbs a stone wall, spins on a wheel, or brings home less-than-brilliant art, he almost instinctively throws out an enthusiastic exclamation, “Good job!” And while we seem to be doing the right thing – offering support and positive reinforcement – parenting experts warn that over time, the endless string of obscure comments about “good work” can do more harm than good.

Author and parenting educator Alfie Cohn states:

Rather than boosting a child’s self-esteem, praise can increase children’s dependence on us. The more we say: “I like the way you …”. or “Good ______ing,” the more children begin to rely on our judgments, our decisions about what is good and what is bad, instead of learning to form their own judgments. This encourages them to evaluate their value in terms of something that makes us smile and give us a little more approval.

Cohn points out that this phrase, while well-intentioned, can be unwittingly used to control our children’s behavior, exploit their craving for approval, and ultimately help create praise addicts who do praise-only assignments. Ultimately, this dependence on extrinsic motivation and approval can dampen their joy and lead to a loss of interest in activities that they previously enjoyed.

Mary Budd Rowe, a researcher at the University of Florida, also found that students who received generous praise from their teachers responded more cautiously and presented their responses in a questioning tone. Fearing failure, they were reluctant to share their ideas and disagree with difficult tasks.

Kohn concludes, “In short,“ Nice work! »Does not calm children; it ultimately makes them feel less secure. ” So what can we say instead? Here are some alternatives.

Describe what you see

While it may seem awkward at first (we are so used to praising after all), try a simple statement that is free of any judgment or judgment. Phrases such as “You brushed your teeth yourself!” or “You did it!” Let your child know that you have noticed their achievements and invite them to be proud of them.

Specify the specifics of your work

When a child shows you their art, comment on what colors they used or any dominant traits. “This is the sun in sunglasses!” or “Wow, I see you used a lot of blue today.”

To ask questions

While the sincere “I love this! It is so beautiful ”, of course, will not hurt our children for life, it is useful to include questions as well. “What was the hardest part about creating this Lego structure?” or “How did you choose this color for your home?”

Praise effort, not results

Praising results can lead a child to believe that the only thing that matters is the result of their work. However, recognition of their efforts leads to what Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck calls the “growth mindset”; the belief that persistence and practice will enable them to do the hard work. Observations such as “You are really concentrating” or “You tried so hard to score this goal” both fall under this umbrella.

Emphasize their impact on other people

If your child is doing something kind for the other person, instead of emphasizing our feelings about it (“I’m so glad you did this”), turn his attention to the effect his caring has had on someone else. … “Wow, Max looks so happy you shared with him!” This makes them notice and appreciate how their actions positively affect others.

A short list of additional phrases:

  • You’ve worked so hard on this.
  • You are really good at … (holding pencil)
  • It’s so creative / It took a lot of imagination.
  • I noticed that your bed was made so neatly today.
  • You look worried!
  • What do you like most about what you have done?
  • Thank you for your patience.
  • It was very thoughtful / bold.
  • It took a lot of effort.
  • I see you are really trying to make the right choice.
  • You put so much effort into it.
  • I couldn’t have done it without you.
  • You did it yourself!

It is, of course, important to remember that a few “good jobs” will not cause irreparable harm to our children. We also don’t need to treat our children like emotionless androids. But if we focus on their efforts, their personal qualities, and do not appreciate what they do, they may be better prepared to feel independent, secure, and confident in their talents, whether they receive approval or not.


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