Break the “GoodJob!” Reflex!

“”What to Do Instead of Saying “Good Job!”

from codenamemama’s blog:

 But even when we know the consequences of mindless praise, it’s easy to fall back on “good job!” when we’re not sure what else to say. We want to express something – pleasure, happiness, pride – but we’re not sure how. Here are a few ideas:

      1. Thank You: it’s true – often we say “good job!” when our kids do something to make our lives easier. So why not just say that? “Thank you for picking up your toys. It really helps mama when you clean up your things.” “Thank you for wiping up that spill. Now I can start dinner on a clean counter.” “Thank you for playing quietly while I was on the phone. I could hear the other person clearly and was able to get off the phone quickly.”
      2. Observe Rather than Evaluate: look at your child’s accomplishments as a chance to have a conversation with him. “Your tower has more red blocks than blue blocks.” Maybe your child will tell you why or will share that her favorite color is red. “You used markers and chalk in that drawing.” Maybe your child will tell you what the drawing is about.
      3. Keep Playing: so your three year old just built a tall tower out of blocks. Instead of good job’ing her, ask her what she’s going to do with the tower. “That’s a tall tower, who lives there?” Or start building a tower of your own, maybe she will engage you in creative play. Playtime is a great way to connect on your child’s terms, so follow her lead – don’t just use it as an opportunity to praise her, that may stifle whatever she was trying to do with her playtime.
      4. Nurture Empathy: instead of “I like the way you shared with Tim!” or “Good job for giving Katie a hug!,” use positive social interactions as an opportunity to nurture your child’s empathy skills. “[G]ently draw his attention to the effect of his action on the other person: ‘Look at Abigail’s face! She seems pretty happy now that you gave her some of your snack.’ This is completely different from praise, where the emphasis is on how you feel about her sharing.” (3) Empathy is the foundation for many vital skills and positive attitudes. It is necessary for healthy social interactions and relationships, it leads to creativity, it increases academic achievement, it reduces prejudice, and it is the root of a strong sense of environmentalism. (4)
      5. Focus on the Action: instead of focusing on the result, talk about the action without adding any judgment. Simply make an observation! “You’ve been working very hard on that painting.” “You really practiced a lot on that song!”
      6. Ask Questions: take an active interest in whatever your child is doing by asking them about it. “How many blocks did you use to build that tower?” “What do you want to build next?” “Why did you decide to paint his beard purple?”
      7. Stay silent: Remember that it’s often the case that we want to praise, our kids don’t really need to hear it. Your child does not expect to be praised all the time – our urge to praise has been hammered into our brains. You might be amazed when your child keeps on building block towers even when you sit back and say nothing at all.

It can be tough to break the “good job!” habit – I know, I was a preschool teacher who used it all the time. But the rewards are worth it.

Do you have any tips for breaking the “good job!” habit? What do you do instead of mindlessly praising your children?””


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