Praise is an important part of parenting. Our children need encouragement from us of course, but what is the purpose of praising our children? The purpose of praise is to encourage children to continue in specific positive behaviors that produce positive outcomes. We are not focusing solely on the outcome, we are focusing on the positive behaviors which in turn will produce the positive outcome.
“Good job” is a phrase we frequently use because it’s easy and we don’t have to put much thought into it, however it is not the best way we can be praising our kids. It is not specific, it’s not thoughtful of us, it focuses on the outcome, and it’s performance based. When telling our children “good job” it brings the attention to the outcome instead of the process. “Good job” doesn’t tell children what they did well and without that information they can’t know what exactly they should do in the future to get the same outcome.
Disclaimer: I am not suggesting that we never tell our children “good job” again, I am simply trying to encourage us as parents to be specific in our praise, and praising our children’s choices instead of their performance.
Research has shown that how we praise our children has a powerful influence on their development.
Children who are praised for their good grades apposed to being praised for their efforts will become overly focused on results. Similarly a child who is praised for winning a tennis match vs playing hard and hustling.
Rewarding their effort encourages kids to work harder and to seek new challenges. Research has found that children who are praised for their effort show more interest in learning, demonstrate greater persistence, and attribute their failures to a lack of effort on their part – which they believe they can choose to change!
We must try to avoid praising our kids for things out of their control. This would be something such as athletic ability, intelligence, or physical appearance.
A child needs to be praised for things that are in their control – effort, attitude, respect, commitment, responsibility, generosity, love, etc.
Here are some practical examples of how we can replace the phrase “Good job”
Replace “Good job on your test!” with “I know you studied so hard for your math test!”
Replace “Good job in your game today” with “You hustled, and played so hard in your game today”
Replace “Great job doing a cartwheel!” with “You have been practicing so often and now you can finally do a cartwheel, you should be proud of yourself!”
Let’s be looking at our children’s choices and praise them specifically in those areas.