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What is so wrong with "good job"??

post #1 of 91
Thread Starter 
I am one who is supportive of compliments, encouragement and praise. I've read so many posts that are against this and I really do not understand why. I get the idea that a generic "good job" isn't really effective and that specific praise is much better, along with specific feedback in general, but I have such a hard time picturing a parenting style that doesn't genuinely celebrate and recognize achievement, no matter how small. When my dd does something new or challenging, I get excited and I tell her.

I know we do not want our children performing only to please mom and dad, we want the motivation to be intrinsic. But, aren't human beings also innately programed to want to please and to be recognized for their abilities, achievements and special qualities?

Are there studies that support non-praise? Who are the big opponents to praise other than Alfie Kohn? (I think I spelled his name wrong.)
post #2 of 91
I think "Good Job" and similar comments are something that come pretty automatically because we are all used to it from when we were kids. I think the problem is that by itself can be a rather empty comment. If it is said to often with no further connections, it doesn't do much to promote feelings of self worth, can feel random, and some argue that it builds dependance on outside praise. (It makes me think of my ,mil and the phrase, "be careful" which is used constantly with no connection to what my dd is actually doing... it sort of becomes white noise!) If, however, you couple it with specific reference to what is "good," i.e. "Good Job, I see you have been working very hard to add details to your horse picture," then I think it becomes far more valuable as praise, and a child starts to build feelings of self-worth in him/herself (wow, mom was right, I did put a lot more work into this picture and it does have more detail) Just my opinion
post #3 of 91
By the way, I'm to far out of teaching school to remember specific studies. I worked in a preschool that was big into "High Scope" (you can google "High Scope Preschool" and "Praise" for more specific articles and points) which specifically addressed the praise thing as a teaching tool, and it was my understanding (as a para) that "good job" by itself was generally frowned upon. I didn't understand the point at first either, but when I saw the more targeted praise in action, it made more sense.
post #4 of 91
There is nothing wrong with general praise.
If a parent or carer can pepper in some specific praise (good job drawing... I especially like the........ bit in it) or whatever, just sometimes, but not so that you're stressed or worried about it; that would defeat the purposes. Children sense stress. If you're worried about how to do it then stick with what you know!

TRYING not to sound all 'know it all'......I say this all with experience of 15+ years in the 'field' but I'm not going to go into it all here (that would take a long old time!!) and I'm sure others have advice to impart. but that is my opinion, professional and personal.
post #5 of 91
I totally got this one day when my dh said "good job" to me and it almost felt like he was taking some of the credit. I would have preferred to hear a different kind of compliment that was completely me and showed he was really listening or paying attention like "you knew just what to say" or whatever. If you really pay attention to how you feel when you try to find a different compliment you may be surprised. I feel myself wanting to boast in my kids accomplishments and saying "good job" for some reason puts some of the credit back on me. When I say "you have used a lot of colors in that picture!" or "do you like your picture? Good!" It totally removes me from any of the credit and I almost feel a let down because I really want to take pride in my kids but I can sense this way is not optimal for them.
This might not make any sense and I do still say "good job" without thinking about it. My kids would rather I take the time to really see and comment on what they have accomplished I think.
post #6 of 91
I read 'Unconditional Parenting' and it gave the reasons for not saying 'good job'. So, I gave it up. My daughter is only two and this was a few months ago. She was clearly upset that I didn't tell her good job, so I stopped worry about it. Though I try to say "You did it." instead more often. I also noticed how often other people say good job to her too. I figured it wouldn't be the end of the world if I said it to her and also explained that she doesn't need to hear it.
post #7 of 91
I really don't think "Good Job" is a big deal, but I agree with the PP who said you should try to make it specific, instead of just saying it to say something.

My son is 8, and has heard Good Job in various forms throughout his life. He still managed to grow up into a great kid with a healthy self-esteem who isn't afraid to try new things out.
post #8 of 91
As a Montessori teacher I was trained that "good job" put a value on the child's work and to say "I like that" instead. Kids naturally want to please their parents and teachers. "Good job" is a value while "I like that" is just an opinion, and it leaves them free to form their own opinions as well.

I also think "good job" sounds a little condescending, but that's just a personal thing.
post #9 of 91
<shrug> Doesn't bother me in the least when people tell me I've done a good job with something.

It's in our "praise vocabulary" with our kids and I see nothing wrong with it. I also don't have a problem with making judgements about some things, which I guess makes me different than most here.
post #10 of 91
My dh and I had a loooong discussion about "good job" when dc was tiny and we concluded that it's a fine thing to say... if the person you're praising is doing a "job". And we think a "job" is something that you're doing because someone else wants you to, not because you want to, ykwim? For instance, putting away the dishes because your mother asked you to is a "job". Reading a book because you're interested in the story is not a "job".

We value intrinsic motivation for learning very highly, and I think saying "good job" often can really undermine that. It takes the kid's focus off their thoughts and feelings about what they're doing and focuses it on the adult's opinion, instead. I noticed this especially when dc was a toddler and we visited friends who "good job"bed him to death. Every time they said it (which was like about every 2 minutes!) he looked up to see what they were talking about and shifted his focus away from the activity and onto them, then back again. And as a consequence, didn't get very far with what he was trying to do.

So I'm not against saying "good job" ever, and I do say it once in a while myself, but infrequently enough that it has particular meaning and isn't just the general positive reinforcement catchphrase that lots of people use it as. For all the little daily things other parents say "good job" to, I'm more likely to say, "look at that!" or "you did it!" Something that shows dc I notice and take joy in his accomplishments, without putting a tick in the "good" column or the "job" column--both of which are unneccesary to give him the kind of attention he craves and the encouragement to keep on going. Does that make sense? It's early, lol.
post #11 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by lavender_mama View Post
As a Montessori teacher I was trained that "good job" put a value on the child's work and to say "I like that" instead. Kids naturally want to please their parents and teachers. "Good job" is a value while "I like that" is just an opinion, and it leaves them free to form their own opinions as well.

I also think "good job" sounds a little condescending, but that's just a personal thing.
I think there is value in doing good work, so I see nothing wrong with praising it.

I'm fine with saying "good job," etc. While I love some of Kohn's work, in particular about homework, I disagree completely about this issue.
post #12 of 91
I think people who have a problem with praise are...well nevermind. Everyone needs to know and HEAR that what they are doing is correct and right. I grew up in a house that lacked praise and it was and still is very hurtful. I seem to, as an adult, seek praise from everyone around me in anyway I can get it, negative or positive.
post #13 of 91

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Edited by GoestoShow - 12/7/10 at 7:00am
post #14 of 91
Quote:
Originally Posted by chipper26 View Post
I am one who is supportive of compliments, encouragement and praise. I've read so many posts that are against this and I really do not understand why. I get the idea that a generic "good job" isn't really effective and that specific praise is much better, along with specific feedback in general, but I have such a hard time picturing a parenting style that doesn't genuinely celebrate and recognize achievement, no matter how small.
I think the point of it is to match your level to your child's. Giving specific feedback at first lets them respond with how they're feeling about the act - was it hard, did it take a long time, was it boring...
It's perfectly fine and wonderful to be happy for your child's achievements, but letting them lead the way lets them set the tone - not you. It teaches them to own their accomplishments instead of looking to see how their accomplishments are perceived by others, and basing their response off of that.

Giving specific feedback lets them see that you really do care, too, and aren't just offering lip service. "You looked like you were getting frustrated but you finished the puzzle" shows them that you saw the steps they were taking, the dedication they had at that moment. "Good job" doesn't really offer the same level of intimacy.
post #15 of 91
It's really interesting. If you want a different look at praise I find the section (and story) about praise in How to Talk So Kids will Listen and Listen So Kids will Talk to be a really unforgettable one. (A family's driving down the highway in a tunnel and the mom praises the kids for their behaviour and suddenly one kid dumps the ashtray so there's ashes all over the car... and later it turns out he was having Bad Thoughts and the praise made him feel so lousy he acted out.)

For me, generic praise rings pretty hollow. We use "thank you" when we're just appreciating things (or specifically, like "Thanks for dusting that, that's a big help today.")

And praise designed specifically to lead to a specific behaviour sometimes rings hollow to me too although I'm not above specific observations like "wow, that was a really nice trip to the grocery store. I had a really good time." (Meaning: you did not pitch a fit.) I think it's this last that Alfie Kohn is suspicious about and I kind of agree with him although I'm not really into absolutes. When praise becomes a reward for good behaviour, the relationship becomes transactional. And although of course any relationship does have give and take in it, I don't really want my son to learn that my appreciation is the "gold star" for good behaviour in a dispensing tokens kind of way.

I also think it is important for kids to be given the space to develop intrinsic motivation, and sometimes that means letting them sit in the space where there isn't immediate external feedback, even if that space is not always comfortable for everyone.

I certainly grew up in a home where being "good" was praised and I did become very suspicious about it and also in some ways a praise junkie – something I struggle with at work, still. I have watched my parents treat my son the same way and noticed him change his behaviour around them in order to get more praise. I think that's fine in short bursts but I wouldn't want him to be doing that all the time at home.

All that said though I love to share real delight in and with my son. From the outside that might look the same, but I think between us we have it worked out vaguely ok.
post #16 of 91
Encouragement is an important part of any relationship. I think the greatest achievement in itself knowing my encouragement to my kids gets them far.
post #17 of 91
I think Kohn makes WAY too big a deal out of this one.

Quote:
Originally Posted by LilyGrace View Post
Giving specific feedback lets them see that you really do care, too, and aren't just offering lip service. "You looked like you were getting frustrated but you finished the puzzle" shows them that you saw the steps they were taking, the dedication they had at that moment. "Good job" doesn't really offer the same level of intimacy.
It doesn't have to be either-or, though. We don't have to avoid "good job" in order to express our presence and connection with our kids. For instance, "Wow! Awesome job! You were getting frustrated, but you really stuck with it!" :

Blankly spouting "good job" is pretty meaningless, yes. But inserting "good job", and similar phrasing, into meaningful converstation is fine, imo. I get the intrinsic/extrinsic motivation argument, but I don't buy it. Young children are wired to seek to please their caregivers, and that is a good thing. This changes as kids grow and develop, and that is a good thing, too. My 2 yo will beam with simple joy at my "good job!", but my 8 yo is much less affected. She still wants my praise and approval, of course, but has more complex needs.

Also, even if we remove "good job" and the like completely, we can't (and shouldn't, I would argue) remove our value judgments. Kids are perceptive; they can read our expressions, our body language, and our attitudes. We aren't neutral with regards to our dc's behaviors, so why pretend to be?
post #18 of 91
I too had issues with this idea when reading UP. My experience with praise comes from teaching high school. My students would raise their hands, jump up and down, yell, anything to get attention to let me know they had gotten a question correct or to show me something they were proud of. They would even tell me about their accomplishments from other classes. They wanted the praise. Seriously, do you want to make a high school kids day? Then put a sticker on their quiz; they love it. That one really shocked me. I thought they were way to old for it. I mean maybe they had been conditioned to need praise, I don't know.

I can see the point in trying to be specific in praise, but I can't believe that humans are wired not to want/need any praise. Let's say it's a total social construct, and I do a perfect job of never uttering a "good job" as my son ages (too late LOL). He goes to play at a friends house one day, and hears the friend's mom praising something her child has done. How does that make DS feel about my lack of praise? I don't know; praise is such an ingrained part of the human condition now. I don't think we can get away without it to some extent. I will try really hard to be specific when I use it.

I don't know. I'll start a college fund and a therapy fund, because it's impossible to get it perfect, right?
post #19 of 91
I think there are just SO many other ways to praise a kid, that saying "good job" seems kind of like a cop out. I mean, if I can't come up with anything better/more interesting/more descriptive to say, it's probably because I don't care that much about what it is I'm seeing.
post #20 of 91
I think there are other, more constructive ways of praising. I try to be specific about what it is I think they did well.

ie. If my son draws a picture, I'll say something like "I like how you made both outfits have a little bit of red. And I like the expression on her face! She looks like she's really happy."
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