Don’t you just hate it when you try to offer positive encouragement to your child but it falls completely flat?
It happened to me just this week. My oldest came home and proudly showed me the ‘A’ he got on his biography of Lord Admiral Nelson. I was so impressed that I immediately said, “Good Job!”
He looked at me expectantly for a few more seconds. And then his face fell.
“Ugh. That’s what you always say!” he said and he snatched his paper out of my hands, obviously disappointed.
“But,” I stammered, “I really think you did a great job!”
“Yeah, yeah, yeah.” he muttered as he walked away dejected.
I felt like the carpet had been pulled out from under my feet. Here I was thinking that I’d been encouraging my son. Apparently though, “good job” wasn’t the way to go.
This is not the case in just our house. Research has shown consistently that generic praise like “good job” may actually do more harm than good.
There is even research which suggests praising children on how they did can cause your child to instinctively reject the praise or, even worse yet, deliberately do the opposite. If they don’t believe they did a good job having you say “good job” means nothing. Children result in feeling manipulated to perform and they will rebel against the manipulation.
Too much “good job” praise from parents can also cause children to lose their internal motivation. They achieve only to receive approval from you and not because they are interested in what they are learning or feel good about succeeding. This creates adults who are unable to find satisfaction because they don’t have practice in feeling what makes them satisfied.
So, if we are to avoid blanket praise like “good job”, what can we say instead that will show our kids we really are proud of them and impressed by their achievement? How can we offer our kids positive encouragement?