Dad, “Do you have to say-Good Job?” I heard this simple request yesterday during a local soccer game. I was visiting relatives and had been invited to watch their son’s soccer game. The game was close, ending in a 2-1 win for the Titans. The parent in question had spent most of the second half standing on the sideline cheering his son. As I thought about it, I did recall hearing “Good Job, Jacob“ quite frequently.
Come to think about it, I use this phrase on a regular basis. Many of us use this or similar statements to encourage our kids. Positive Reinforcement is the current trend. The web is full of articles and blogs encouraging us to reinforce our child’s positive behaviors. Charts, Stickers, and Trinkets to facilitate what we want. Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about rewarding, hugging and praising as a way to encourage a child to perform; but, do we occasionally go overboard. Jacob seemed to think so.
When using “Good Job” on a regular basis are we creating a generation of praise junkies? Kids that can’t function unless mommy and daddy are their to tell them they are correct. To praise their every movement, encourage them for every little thing. Is it not better to wait for them to feel their own joy, look our way and then respond with specific information. An overall summary of their success.
Is constant rewarding and praising leading them to only work when rewards are present? To only strive for perfection when someone is watching. Someone ready to praise. What every happened to striving to complete a task or perform at top-level for an internal feeling of satisfaction?
Maybe for Jacob, the words had been heard so many time, they had lost their reinforcement value. Had Jacob’s dad used “Good Job” as a generic way to insert himself into Jacob’s world? Jacob was old enough to realize, in this situation, ”Good Job” was really meaningless. I don’t think Jacob was asking for dad not to cheer; but, to praise with more precision. To praise when something exceptional was happening. To wait until that hard-fought goal, or that creative steel was attained.
Our children do need our support. They need and crave our unconditional support. Unconditional support is not praise. It is different from the “Good Job” kind of praise. “Good Job” is typically used when kids are performing for us. Is that what we want? Performance? No we want our kids to do the right thing because they know what the right thing is. We want them to feel good about themselves when they work hard. When they give a task there all no matter what the outcome.
So what is a replacement for “Good Job“. How about describing what you see and then ask quality questions. Show interest, give the child with your time and listen. When a chore or task meets your expectations, explain your feelings and the resulting benefit. An example, Jacob, I appreciate you cleaning your room last night. This morning I had extra time to make cookies. Or your soccer game was so exciting, show me that move your put on the goalie. Your time and attention are so much more powerful than words.
Want more information, check out this great article.
http://www.alfiekohn.org/parenting/gj.htm, Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”, Alfie Kohn