Saturday, May 23, 2009

Good job?

Is the phrase good job actually harming your child?

Well...maybe. In my college child development class and in other parenting literature this seemingly innocent phrase has been exposed for what it can do to our kids. According to parenting expert Alfie Kohn it can make them "praise junkies." They can become too dependent on our approval of everything that they do, that it stifles their own opinion of what they like and don't like. It can make them shy away from taking risks and trying new things for fear of not doing a "good job." They can become less secure in themselves rather than more secure. It has happened with my own son and I have tried really hard to reverse the "damage" I have done. You can read more about this topic from Kohn by clicking here.

Instead of not praising my child at all, which is damaging as well, there are smarter ways to praise.

Ones that I have been working on saying are:
"Wow! You did it!"
"Thank you for doing that for me. That was so helpful."
"Look at all the colors you used to make your picture."
"You stayed in the lines really well."

Even still I wonder if my praise is the kind that is going to help my son become a confident, steady individual who is able to endure mistakes well when he tries new things.

What do you do and say to praise your child?

How do you remedy the "good job" syndrome with your kids?

Are you a recovering "good job" abuser like me? If yes....what did you do to change your habits?

Thank you for your input!

12 comments:

Diane said...

I'm still at the beginning of all of this, but in the Love and Logic book I started reading it had a lot of good comments and phrases to use to help them realize their own accomplishments. Sorry I don't have the book here, so if you have the book you should read it. ;) But one that I remember and try to use a lot is, "...Look what you just did!" or for example "Look how far you just walked." I think it really helps to teach them to see their own progress, and I really like that.

Another thing that the book says about 'bad' praise, is that if it comes from someone they don't 'like' or trust, it can turn against them and they will twist it as a bad thing. or something like that. Anyway, this is a very interesting point and I can't wait to read what others post! :)

Jessie said...

Like you said, I just try to praise specific things--"great job coloring in the lines!" or "good running!" or "You just went potty in the potty--I'm so proud of you!" and the like. I do say "good job," but I keep it specific to what my daughters are doing, and only use it when they are actually doing something that should be praised.

Kaylyn said...

I didn't even think about this. I will have to be more thoughtful of what I say to my daughter. I never thought it could be so damaging.

Chris and Laura said...

This is one of those debates, I think, that can be over-thought. I agree that it can be counterproductive if you always say "good job" and nothing else in terms of praise--how are the kids supposed to know what they are doing well if everything they do gets the same response? That said, I don't think it's always terrible to say good job.

I agree with what others have said. I try, both with my daughter and with my students, to be specific in what I'm praising so they know exactly what they did right. "I like the way you you sat down" "Yay! You put your shoes in the right box!" I also try to say thank you often, so they know that I appreciate when things are done the right way. "Thank you for writing your name on your paper" "Thank you for picking up that toy!"

It is important to praise kids, but I think it would have to go to major extremes before "good job" would become mentally damaging to a child. Just let them know that you care and help them understand the right way to do things!

Jared and Delia said...

I am sorry if the way I have written this post has alienated anyone from making comments.

I have issues myself with accepting my flaws and myself when I make mistakes. I have a very mixed up self concept that I am paranoid about passing onto my children. When my son refused to color anything or draw (and sometimes still does) while expressing his fear that he wouldn't do it right, I took great pains to reevaluate what I was doing wrong. I realized that I was praising him with good job for everything (general, specific, anything). I wasn't taking time to praise him sincerely as much as I should. I was praising him even when a "thank you" or a "oh you did that?" would work better.

If you read the article I linked to, it talks about manipulating children to do what is convenient for us by saying good job for things that don't necessarily require a "good job" just a thank you.I have been doing that A LOT as well and I now realize that that praise will back fire eventually. I didn't notice that those two things were linked at the time, the manipulating praise and rebellion later. As I have cut that out I have noticed much less resentment from my son that I believe stemmed from the unintentional manipulating praise.

Anyway...you are probably right. I may be overthinking this a little bit. I used to not think much of this advice I had already heard about until my son showed the effects of my careless praise. I just think it deserves more thought which is why I posted about it.

Debbie and Boys said...

This might be a tangent, but in a parenting class, I was taught that instead of praising results, praise efforts. (You worked so hard on that, didn't you? --only if they really did, though.)
One child may work very hard for an 80% on spelling, and another does nothing and easily gets 100%. If you praise the A+, they'll never get filled up. But if you acknowledge the work, its work they'll learn is important, not the A.

Debbie and Boys said...

Okay, so one more thing, instead of praising. Once in a while I ask very attentively "How do you feel about what you accomplished" or "what do you like about what you just did."
Its a great way to get them to tell you things you might not know they think are praiseworthy.
Then I comment from there.

Tannie Datwyler said...

I think Delia that all kids are different. I like that you recognized that the way you were praising your son didn't work for him!! I don't think you are paranoid - just conscientious! You've taught me so much and helped me to think about things I can do better.

Specific praise works better for all kids of course (and I love what has been said about praising effort, being specific, and saying thankyou).

With that being said some kids are going to rely so heavily on praise that they don't build up their confidence (as perhaps you demonstrated Delia with your son), while others REALLY need that praise to HAVE confidence. Does that make sense? I think you just watch your kids and do what seems right. I love how Delia pointed out what wasn't working and how changing helped. That is what good parenting is ALL about!

Krysta and Jan-Michael said...

Delia- it's been awhile since I've checked out your little site here... and WOW! It's amazing! I love the little signatures after the posts too =)

Jes said...

This topic has really made me think alot. Its somthing Id never thought of or heard of before. Im going to commit to watch what I say and how much 'just in case'!
...I also agree with Tannie here :)

On The Go Family said...

One of my favorite phrases to use with my kids is: "I noticed you like to ..." It's open-ended and gives them a chance to tell you how they feel about said subject.

Like the first reader mentioned, there's a bunch of info about this in the Love & Logic book.

Courtney said...

WOW! Ever since reading this I have become very aware of how often I say "Good Job!" YIKES! I think a good rule of thumb is to go back to the "positive parenting" tactic of specific praise. Instead of, "Good job on that drawing!" Say, "I really like/love the way you drew the people on the paper." Lame example, but I think you get the drift.