I bet you’re reading this because of the title…. What kind of mom doesn’t tell her kids “Good Job”??
I was also a teacher who didn’t tell her preschool students “good job.” Now I am a trainer who encourages teachers to avoid saying “good job.” Why on Earth would I do such a thing?
Praise is widely seen as a way to boost self-esteem in children. But what if I told you it could also do the opposite? You will probably argue with me, and that’s fine. Let me at first explain why I choose to avoid praise.
I don’t want an approval-seeking-praise-junkie.
As children get used to hearing “Good Job” over and over again. They become used to it. Especially in the early years, they become dependent on hearing you tell them “Good job”. They begin to do things to make you happy. Their goal is to do a “good job”. For some of these children, if you happen to miss telling them “good job” when they show you what they’ve done, it can be devastating. Even though they’ve done nothing wrong- they feel as if they have because you didn’t tell them “good job”. I don’t want my kids to grow up thinking that they need to seek others’ approval in everything that they do.
“Good Job” doesn’t really mean anything anyways.
This is just empty praise. Good job doing what? When it is used for every child, every action, and every accomplishment, it loses any significant meaning. That same goes for phrases such as “It’s beautiful!” What is beautiful? Maybe their intention wasn’t to make something beautiful or pretty. Maybe it’s supposed to be a scary picture, but by saying “it’s beautiful” You could’ve cut their confidence down. Now they may think, “Well it was supposed to be scary, but I guess I didn’t to it right.” Avoid this by using specific encouraging statements relating to directly to the situation or action. If it is a picture, for example, you can instead say “Wow, I see you used a lot of black and blue.” This lets the child evaluate their own work and possibly reply “Yeah, it’s a scary ghost at night time!”
With our kids as involved in sports as they are, I particularly use this when congratulating them on those accomplishments too. Instead of just saying “Hey great game today!”, I always try to focus on what exactly they did. “You worked really hard at practice on that head lock I saw today.” instead of “You won that match- great job!” or for my youngest (who’s voice rang over everything else at her dance recital) “You were singing all those words really loud today!”
I want them to judge their own work and accomplishments.
Following along with the above statements, I want them to judge and evaluate their own work and actions. This also brings in the “I like” phrases. Say a child creates something with magnets and blocks then the caregiver responds with “Wow I love it!” You love what exactly? And what about the child behind you reading a book? You didn’t tell them that you love what they’re doing? Then there is the child who comes in with new shoes on. Most adults respond with “Oooh I like those. So cool!” But what about the child next to him? His shoes aren’t new but they’re cool too, yet you only said you liked the new shoes. Instead we can respond to the new shoes by saying “Ooh they have Spiderman on them!” That is a specific non-judgmental comment and it allows other children to join in about their shoes without feeling bad about not having “cool” shoes. This same thing goes for haircuts, clothing, artwork, etc.
I avoid rewards.
Giving rewards is another way children can become dependent. This can begin to create the “Well what do I get out of it?” attitude. In the classroom, we don’t use things like stickers. Children will all too easily begin to rush through things just to get the prestigious sticker. Same thing with at home. I learned this first hand while beginning to potty train my daughter. If she tried on the potty, then she got a little dum-dum sucker. Well..… We did this for a little while until I caught her running into the bathroom, hopping on the toilet for 2 seconds, then jumping off and asking for her sucker. She wasn’t actually trying. She was just doing what she thought I wanted her to do in order to get her sucker.
So I have to admit, my title is slightly misleading. I am not perfect at this approach. There are definitely times when something exciting happens and an empty praise phrase starts to form at my lips. It’s our nature. We want our kids to feel happy and proud of themselves. Not to mention, us as parents, teachers, or caregivers want to be the ones to help them feel those things. We can easily achieve that if we begin replacing all of that praise we throw around with some more encouragement instead.