To Praise Kids or Not to Praise?


In my son’s classroom, the teacher praised a child’s perfect o’s. “Good job, Sienna.” At Little League, the coach told the boy who caught the ball, “Good job, Timothy.”

And I heard “Good job” at the supermarket 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”. 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 behaviour 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. 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:  the kids’ internal learning will transfer to other experiences.