At Little League, the coach told the boy who caught the ball, “Good job, Timothy.”
Today, I heard “Good job” at the grocery store when the girl stopped throwing her Cheerios, on the playground when a boy hit the wall with the ball instead of his sister, and in my son’s theatre class when the children put away the costumes.
We want our children to grow up as proficient, able-bodied people who have high self-esteem. What’s better than an enthusiastic, “Good job”?
Then I read Alfie Kohn’s article, “Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job,” (http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm). I began to take a closer look at how I praised my son.
Support and encouragement is what I wanted to convey. Why not say “Good job”? What could be more encouraging?
According to Kohn, we often use “Good job” as a way to get our kids to do what we want. We praise them. They want more praise. They do the behavior to get more praise.
Instead of saying something external to them to get a result, what about engaging them by working with them to create internal learning?
Take the drama class example of picking up the scattered costumes. Instead of a pat few words, a discussion of teamwork and what it takes to have a smooth class experience created the same results. That conversation is much more meaningful than a few cheerleading words. And the best news: he kids’ internal learning will transfer to other experiences.
When Zed put away all his Legos that had turned our dining room into a Stop-Action movie set, I didn’t say what a good job he did. I looked at the empty, shining pine wood of the table’s surface and told him it gave me a sense of peace. I also looked at the clock and told him while he cleaned up, I got an article written and now I had time to go shoot hoops with him. What he gets to take away from this is the good feeling of cleaning up without relying on me to give him that good feeling.
Notice how many times a day you say “Good job” or something like it. What would it take to give your child that experience of feeling good about what they did from the inside? Go easy on yourself. “Good job” is a common practice entrenched deeply in our society’s norms of parenting. It won’ change overnight.
Let me know how this goes. If you find it creates positive results, you can be the one to tell yourself, “Good job.”