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Saying "Good Job"

     Admit it.  You say "Good Job!" to your child daily.  If you are one of the rare parents that don't, I promise you, if you go to a park, the library, a birthday party, etc, you will hear the phrase over and over again.   Heck, even babies will get offered this phrase for kicking their feet or clapping their hands.  It has become second nature for adults to say this to children.

     Many times parents will confuse positive reinforcement with saying "Good job."  Did you know that you are not suppose to do this?  Children are so hungry for our approval that they will often do whatever they can to hear this magic phrase.  In other words, children are learning to do things in order to get praise.  They are not learning to do something because it is right, or because it's something that they truly wanted to do.  This is forcing them to only rely on OUR evaluation of them, and not their own.

     Although not the intent, saying "Good job" can often steal a child's pleasure in her own accomplishments. Their pride is their own, and they should be able to decide when they want to feel that.  When we are saying "Good job" we are indirectly telling them, "This is when you need to feel happy because of this particular outcome."

Melissa and Doug

     This phrase also causes children to loose interest in an activity quickly.  Originally, the purpose of an activity was to simply read, write, draw, etc.  Now we have made it so the purpose is only to get a "Good job" thrown at them.  Once the child hears that phrase, they feel like the activity is done, and there is no need to continue the behavior or action.

     Since they have lost interest in the activity now, saying "Good job" hinders a child's progression.  Once a child hears this praise, they feel as if they have accomplish a task.  To them, there is nothing beyond it, and nothing to strive for.  Think of it in terms of sports (although it is in ALL aspects of life).  A child runs a lap in five minutes.  They were told, "Good job" so they feel as if they've hit the quickest point.  Instead, if they are told, "Keep it up!" or "You keep getting quicker!" then they are still trying to do even better, and now they may be able to run that lap in four minutes!

     Trust me, I catch myself doing this all the time.  While I was in school, almost every class I was in addressed this.  Let the child do the talking, not you.  Get the child to form HER own opinion about HER own work.  Listen to them, and they will grow and learn to be proud of their own accomplishments.

     This doesn't mean you can not praise your child.  Just make sure it's not all you say.  Explain why you are praising them.  Say exactly what you like, and not just the broad "Good Job."  It will take some time wrapping your brain around this, but be very aware of it.

Here are some alternate phrases you can say instead.

     "I see what you are doing." -  Children want the attention.  Give it to them.  "I see you climbing so high in that tree" or, "I see you're doing you're homework so nicely."  Let them know that you do see them. USA, LLC

     "Can you tell me more about that?" - Get her to talk about her work.  It will bring a lot more meaning to it if she is explaining exactly why she did what she did.  "Tell me about what you made" or, "How did you learn to run like that?"

     "That looks like you worked really hard." Acknowedge all that work that your child just did.  It will help her feel pride in herself.  "Wow, you picked up ALL your toys" or, "It took you a long time to finish that homework but you finally got it!"

   You will not be able to change the way you talk overnight.  It will take a conscience effort to talk differently to your child.  Try it, see how your child reacts, and I bet you'll foster more independency in her!