Is "good job" EVER a good thing to say? - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-27-2005, 03:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I was having this conversation with my mom, about praise. And in general, she tries hard to not use "good job" with ds. She'll say "you did it!" or something specific like that instead.
But she was telling me that when my stepdad was 10, he made an electronic circuit thingy all by himself, and he had worked hard on it (it turned lights on). He went to show his mom, and he got something like "that's nice." with the attitude of "yes, of course you can do something like that. You should".
Now, he STILL remembers that, and it still bothers him now that he's in his 40's. All he wanted was for his mom to say "good job". (now, I have to say, that I do think she was not a very emotionally involved mom- she expected a lot, and didn't really make postive comments about much- because she expected them to do good things. kwim? I get the feeling that she was a bit "cold", and a bit self-centered)
So that got me thinking, and it seems to me that if a child comes to you, all excited about something they made or did, it does seem that "good job..." followed by something specific, and showing interest, would be appropriate. Maybe not specifically "good job" but something involving some sort of value judgement- "wow! that's great!" something
I'm not "for" manipulative praise at all and I don't like behaviorism used on kids. I try to just describe what I see, and let dc go with how HE feels about whatever is happening. I'm not talking about saying "good job" on a regular basis. But what about when he comes to me and WANTS to hear me say that what he did was good?

I like to hear "the house looks great!" after I spent a lot of time cleaning. kwim?

So talk to me about this type of praise, if you would

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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Old 12-27-2005, 03:48 PM
 
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I think that "good job" is ok to say to a child for a job well done. Why not?
I don't say it for every little thing, and when I say it, I say it with real enthusiasm, and I mean it. I'm not just mumbling it for the sake of saying something. When you say "that's great" or "you did it", it's not much different than "good job". Just a wording choice. You are still giving praise right?
I have found tons of great advice on this board, but sometimes I tend to overthink what I say to my ds, which I don't like. I see nothing wrong with "good job" used in moderation.
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Old 12-27-2005, 04:30 PM
 
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In all honesty... I personally don't believe that it's about saying "good job" when it is truly a job well done... it's about knowing how to say something positive when it's not. I know a LOT of people will disagree with me because in life you get one disappointment after another from others who are in a position to "approve" or "disapprove" of your work. It's important to teach your child how to maintain self-esteem in spite of criticism. I use "well done" or "good job" all the time but also explain why I think so. I don't dismiss her with a "good job" so I can then ignore her.
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Old 12-27-2005, 05:44 PM
 
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I think there is a HUGE difference between praising for manipulative reasons and using words of recognition when a child seeks them or when you feel them. My ds sometimes seeks recognition and my dd often does. I think it is a valid need of hers to feel recognized and I feel very loved that I am so important to her that she wants to share her accomplishments and artwork with me. I try to really be present in that moment and feel their excitement so I can comment on whatever positively and honestly and maybe ask questions. With my dd she may ask me specific questions about it too. If "good job" is used in this context I don't see how it could be wrong although I do see how more specific words could be better.

And I LOVE it when my dc WANT to help with something so if I'm feeling it at that moment I will tell them I love to be helped or thanks so much. Sometimes I feel very appreciative of their help with jobs so I tell them I really appreciate it when I'm helped or something similiar. I usually feel appreciative if I realize helping me might not be their first choice of activity at that moment and they help me willingly anway. I'm not saying something positive to them because I want them to feel as though they MUST help me but because I'm feeling positive AND I KNOW they don't feel as though they must because they will tell me if they don't want to for such and such reason .

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Old 12-27-2005, 09:39 PM
 
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No. Not useful, imnsho. Except as I was at Captain Crunchy for her post in the Toddler forum.

Celebrate with the child! Judging the outcome feeds a dependence on external judgement of *results* rather than *effort*. Just like *needing*: "wow, you really did a 'good job' cleaning the house' is an emotional dependency. Cleaning the house for *yourself* is more satisfying because you can be consistently pleased with *yourself*. No risk of displeasure. A sure win. Isn't that more portable and reliable and rewarding in the long run? Unless you have been trained to depend on others for your self-acknowledgement of worth? (As most of us are trying to overcome..........)

Cleaning the house as a *gift* to others is different. And their delight or awareness is a pleasant result of the effort. And that can be enjoyed, even if it is a generic 'wow, the house looks nice' or 'good job'. Certainly to expect others to say 'the table is so much less stressful with all the stuff cleared off; and it is pleasant not to trip over all the toys in the sunroom; and wow! you cleared off the counters too!' would be nice to hear! But, *knowing* it made life more pleasant to people who cared is enough.......most of the time, for me. But I still ask for the strokes when I make a big effort.



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Old 12-28-2005, 01:47 AM
 
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I think saying "good job" would only build good self-esteem in the child.......and that is not a bad thing.
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Old 12-28-2005, 01:59 AM
 
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I personally don't think that "good job" is a judgemental statement. It's just a colloquialism, or whatever you call it. To me, it's like "Hooray!" or "Wow!" So I guess I think saying "Good job!" IS celebrating with your child. So, yeah, I use it too. For example, my dd made this little pattern with her fridge magnets the other day, and it took her a while. So then when she was done, she showed me, obviously excited, and I said, "Good job! You got all the reds together and the blues all go in a line here." and then she described it some more.

Also, I think I occasionally seek approval, and am not sure it's a bad thing. I think you can have a sense of self-worth, and still seek approval. I don't know, this isn't very thought out, but I think people can't live without seeking approval. We're social animals, after all.

Also also, this might get me flamed, but I pretty much hated that article "Punished by Rewards". When he describes the mothers at the playground as "saccharine" I was very turned off. I think manipulative praise will backfire almost instantly, and I think genuine reactions can include phrases such as "good sliding" and "good clapping". Maybe I just felt irritated because this is the least of our GD problems. I don't know.

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Old 12-28-2005, 02:08 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deva33mommy
when my stepdad was 10, he made an electronic circuit thingy all by himself, and he had worked hard on it (it turned lights on). He went to show his mom, and he got something like "that's nice." with the attitude of "yes, of course you can do something like that. You should".
Now, he STILL remembers that, and it still bothers him now that he's in his 40's. All he wanted was for his mom to say "good job". (now, I have to say, that I do think she was not a very emotionally involved mom- she expected a lot, and didn't really make postive comments about much- because she expected them to do good things. kwim? I get the feeling that she was a bit "cold", and a bit self-centered)
It seems to me that he was looking for someone to show a genuine interest in what he had done. Why would "good job" have been any better than "that's nice"? Imagine she had given her attention to her son for a moment and asked how he made the thing and how it worked. When I am proud of something I have accomplished empty praise does nothing for me. In fact, it makes me feel like I am being humored or patronised.
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Old 12-28-2005, 04:40 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunnysideup
Imagine she had given her attention to her son for a moment and asked how he made the thing and how it worked. When I am proud of something I have accomplished empty praise does nothing for me. In fact, it makes me feel like I am being humored or patronised.
I said the same thing to my mom! She said that being asked how it worked would have been disappointing, like she had to say that because she didn't think it was a "good job". Something like that. lol
I totally agree with the empty praise making me feel humored!
I think my mom likes to "debate", and she just got on a roll with the praise thing! lol. She said she'd take "good job painting" (painting a room- she's remodeling her house) over "wow. Those edges look really good." because if someone said that, then to her it would mean that the rest looked bad.

At any rate, thanks everyone for the replies- stuff to think about

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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Old 12-28-2005, 05:21 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deva33mommy
She said she'd take "good job painting" (painting a room- she's remodeling her house) over "wow. Those edges look really good." because if someone said that, then to her it would mean that the rest looked bad.
Don't you think that is kind of sad? For someone to see the negative in a compliment? I tease my DH about this all the time. He says, "That shirt looks good on you" and I come back with, "Are you saying my butt looks big?"

I stand by saying that you need to be specific in praise. I think your step dad would have gotten so much more from her asking about it and expressing a genuine interest, "How did you..." and if you must comment, say something like, "It looks like you put a lot of effort into this. How do you feel about it?" I try to get our kids to recognize their internal praise and use that as a gauge. "You worked really hard. Do you feel good about it?"

In the case you mentioned, it is hard to see where saying 'good job' would have been manipulative unless she wanted him to build another electronic circuit thingy. To me, it is manipultive when you praise only to get a repeated outcome. "Good job getting dressed!" Are you really impressed or are you hoping he will dress himself from now on? "Your clothes are on! How did that happen?" works better for us. Then I get the beaming, "I did it myself!" from him.
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Old 12-28-2005, 05:36 PM
 
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i usually say something more specific, but i don't think i deserve to be drawn and quartered for uttering a "good job" once in a while.
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Old 12-28-2005, 05:43 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by michelemiller
i usually say something more specific, but i don't think i deserve to be drawn and quartered for uttering a "good job" once in a while.
If I sounded harsh and that I wanted to draw and quarter people, that was not my intent. I have no problems with a spontaneous, heartfelt "Good job!" I use it to share my child's enthusiasm. I was just commenting on using it to manipulate or make them dependent on our approval.

Sorry if my previous post did not reflect that.
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Old 12-28-2005, 05:54 PM
 
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I LOVE to praise my dd, and get defensive when I start hearing various reasons why I shouldn't. I have said "Good job" so many times that my dd says it to me - and guess what, it makes me feel good!

That being said, I read a bit about praise in the "How to talk so your kids will listen..." book, and have tried to use the tools given there.

For example, when she gives me a piece of her treat, instead of saying "good job sharing" I will thank her and tell her, "You are a generous girl to share your treat with me". I can't remember exactly how the book puts it, but it made sense to me at the time about why this is a good thing to do. They can internalize something about themselves that they can carry with them rather than just a fleeting action, or something like that.

Also, if she shows me a pic she colored I might say, "Good job! I like how you chose lots of bright colors" so she knows I am really interested in her picture.

~Tracy

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Old 12-28-2005, 06:14 PM
 
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So is there a book that goes along with these ideologies?
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Old 12-28-2005, 06:59 PM - Thread Starter
 
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majazama, Unconditional Parenting talks a bit about praise, and how NOT to do it, alternatives, better ways of wording praise, and why certain types can actually do more harm than good. I liked the book a lot!

Hmmm...I think I'll read that part again- I'm sure it would help my thought process here. Thanks for the idea

Becky, partner to Teague, SAHM to Keagan (7yo), Jonah (2yo)
 

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Old 12-28-2005, 07:10 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deva33mommy
I was having this conversation with my mom, about praise. And in general, she tries hard to not use "good job" with ds. She'll say "you did it!" or something specific like that instead.
But she was telling me that when my stepdad was 10, he made an electronic circuit thingy all by himself, and he had worked hard on it (it turned lights on). He went to show his mom, and he got something like "that's nice." with the attitude of "yes, of course you can do something like that. You should".
Now, he STILL remembers that, and it still bothers him now that he's in his 40's. All he wanted was for his mom to say "good job". (now, I have to say, that I do think she was not a very emotionally involved mom- she expected a lot, and didn't really make postive comments about much- because she expected them to do good things. kwim? I get the feeling that she was a bit "cold", and a bit self-centered)
So that got me thinking, and it seems to me that if a child comes to you, all excited about something they made or did, it does seem that "good job..." followed by something specific, and showing interest, would be appropriate. Maybe not specifically "good job" but something involving some sort of value judgement- "wow! that's great!" something
I'm not "for" manipulative praise at all and I don't like behaviorism used on kids. I try to just describe what I see, and let dc go with how HE feels about whatever is happening. I'm not talking about saying "good job" on a regular basis. But what about when he comes to me and WANTS to hear me say that what he did was good?

I like to hear "the house looks great!" after I spent a lot of time cleaning. kwim?

So talk to me about this type of praise, if you would
I have read all of the criticizm about praise too. And that when we praise our kids it disrupts their inner voice. (they should be saying "good job" to themselves) Everythign about me says That I enjoy praise and it makes me feel good. It is not in any way my primary motivator.
Now to read the arguments against praise would be to assume that because I like praise I was over praised as a child and became a praise junkie and am an uncreative "yes man".
But I just dont buy that simplistic explanation.
After reading "Punished By Rewards" (eta. The book. Alfie Kohn mentions praise in Unconditional Parenting, but he has an entire book on the subject of praise and rewards called "Punished By Rewards") I have taken some of the good advice provided, but not come to the conclusion that I truly believe that "good job" is harmful.
I use it. My 2 year olds even praise ma! It is very sweet to hear a 24 month old say "Good singer Mama"!
By all means make praise 100% honest. (no faking it) And use details etc. . .
But as to whether or not "good job" is always an inappropriate response. WEll we each really have to decide that for ourselves.
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Old 12-28-2005, 07:11 PM
 
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Just curious- Has anyone known anybody they would consider a 'prasie junkie'? I remember reading the term in a book (can't rememeber which one though) as one of the reasons not to praise too much.

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Old 12-28-2005, 07:21 PM
 
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I know a lot of praise junkies. And I was one myself until I started deprogramming myself.

I'm not particularly fond of "good job," but I don't think it alone is going to make or break a child's ability to motivate him/herself independent of external validation. I try not to use it because my son literally turns off when he hears it (his dad and my mom use it a lot). It seems to kill his interest in whatever he's doing. When I talk with him about his work in a tone that conveys legitimate interest and excitement, he gets more excited. He's much more likely to continue with what he's doing for the sake of continuing rather than giving it up or slapping out something quickly to show and get another "good job!"
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Old 12-28-2005, 07:52 PM
 
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On this page is a link to the article: Five Reasons to Stop Saying Good Job
http://www.alfiekohn.com/articles.htm#null
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Old 12-28-2005, 09:02 PM
 
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I have no problem with praise if it's honest and genuine.
If I'm really excited and happy about something my child did, I'm not going to fake it and say "that's nice."

I also think praise should be appropriate for the moment.
For instance, asking my child to get her shoes because we're getting ready to go. If she does get them, I don't say "good job".
I say "Thank you. Now we can put them on and get ready to go outside."

I personally hate the words "good job" because they are so overused. So I really try to use other words.

Also, if I do praise I try to phrase it in a way that it focuses on her being happy with what she did.
For instance she was genuinely excited the other day that she unzipped her jacket by herself. She shouted happily "Mommy I did it!"
I was happy for her too and said "Wow! you did!"
Then I also said "That feels pretty good that you were able to do it all by yourself, huh?"
And she said "Yeah!"

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Old 12-28-2005, 09:11 PM
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Something about the words "good job" really annoy me. I'm not certain what it is, but I feel stupid using them. I think maybe it reminds me of how people talk to dogs. When I grade papers, I tend to say "Nicely done!" when papers are particularly good. When talking with Simon, I don't use either, but he does get a fair amount of genuine praise and I think that I praise him a lot unintentionally too.
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Old 12-28-2005, 09:30 PM
 
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I actually described this whole ideology that "good job" as a bad thing to say is the salad dressing of parenting problems. I highly doubt that my genuine praise - however it is phrased - is going to turn my child into an attention seeking crazy person. While I totally get that it is better to use specific praise and I employ specific praise most of the time, I think "good job" has it's place. Obviously this is a your mileage may vary and you may do differently in your family type thing.

I really hate it when I read statements from other moms on MDC who hate to post in this forum because they think people will bash them for saying "good job." To me, it's just not that huge of an issue.
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Old 12-28-2005, 09:56 PM
 
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I tend to say "thank-you" to my DD's when they do something "good", like peeing in the potty, or bringing me something they shouldn't be playing with.

And now, they are always saying thanks, or tank-oo (too cute when my 18 month old does it) They learn by experience. I also have been trying not to say "good girl", too as I heard that it denotes that females are inherently bad.
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Old 12-29-2005, 01:49 AM
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lisac77, I really don't think it's that small of an issue. Dh's parents continually praised him up the whazoo throughout his life. Even though their praise was unconditional (they'd praise him for anything and everything, though of course their praise escalated when he was MVP or otherwise won an honour), he learned to seek it out big-time and to only feel good when others acknowledged what he was doing. For a long time, if he wasn't "the best" at whatever it was that he was doing, he'd be miserable. Searching for praise/fame/acknowledgement became his mission in life, quite literally. When not given praise, he'd feel worthless. He's working through these issues, and has come a long way, but the praise that he received was very harmful to him. I think it also contributed to his being non-confrontational to a fault. He finds it difficult to do anything that would be upsetting to someone, even if that person is clearly in the wrong. He was a compliant child and never (or very seldom and mildly) punished.
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Old 12-29-2005, 02:12 AM
 
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I'm with Lisac on this one. Like every single other parenting tool (good, bad, indifferent), praise can be used well or badly, appropriately or overused. Obviously, the situation that Dal describes is overused and maybe used badly. But that doesn't mean that ALL praise is that way. Or that all parents who use praise as part (not the only part) of their tool bags are doing it (praise or parenting) "wrong". And a cannot for the life of me (yes, I've read all the articles and books linked) see why a single specific phrase, if used for genuine circumstances now and then, can be so cotton-picken bad. I think its one more way to sell books and make parents feel like they need experts in their lives. And if I ever get to the point that I am so perfect a parent that my sole "problem" is too much praise or using the "wrong" words to do it, then I will pat my halo, fluff my wings and retire to a cloud with a harp. Surely we ALL have other things that should get more attention?
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Old 12-29-2005, 02:18 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dal
lisac77, I really don't think it's that small of an issue. Dh's parents continually praised him up the whazoo throughout his life. Even though their praise was unconditional (they'd praise him for anything and everything, though of course their praise escalated when he was MVP or otherwise won an honour), he learned to seek it out big-time and to only feel good when others acknowledged what he was doing. For a long time, if he wasn't "the best" at whatever it was that he was doing, he'd be miserable. Searching for praise/fame/acknowledgement became his mission in life, quite literally. When not given praise, he'd feel worthless. He's working through these issues, and has come a long way, but the praise that he received was very harmful to him. I think it also contributed to his being non-confrontational to a fault. He finds it difficult to do anything that would be upsetting to someone, even if that person is clearly in the wrong. He was a compliant child and never (or very seldom and mildly) punished.
While I understand where you're coming from I believe this type of reasoning to be a deductive fallacy. Kind of a post hoc, ergo propter hoc scenario.

You are attributing your husband's attention-seeking behavior with his parents' constant unconditional praise. While this may be true (since I don't know your husband, his parents, or his situation growing up, I can't make that kind of judgment), I don't know that for sure. I only know that you think that it is true.

I think this argument may hold water, but I have not seen sufficent evidence that using general praise really results in negative behaviors from the child being praised. I think that some people naturally seek out attention. Couldn't one easily turn the argument around and say, "Because John never got praise from his parents, he is always seeking praise and attention from others." Without real correlation and proof (hard to get, I know) you can't really claim either of these statments as true.

Since there's no real proof one way or the other, I think that it is difficult to make a strong argument. I simply go with my gut on this one, and I'm sure you'll do the same.
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Old 12-31-2005, 09:06 PM
 
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My 2 cents.

If your child puts one block on top of another (and has done this 1,000x before) and then pauses and looks at you for approval, it's time to cut back on the praise.

If she builds a 5 foot tower and has never stacked blocks like that and you are filled with the same awe that is in her face and you exclaim in glee "way to go, GREAT job" she'll survive!
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Old 01-01-2006, 12:58 AM
 
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I am kind of a praise junkie, and I'll tell you with me it goes WAY deeper than having "good job" said to me one too many times. It was a general attitude from my mother that I had to always 'over achieve' to be worthy. I don't know if I can explain it that well, but it was way more than the window dressing of the particular words that were said or not said. On the other hand, it may also be that I just have the innate personality trait of desiring praise.

I don't think that the occasional "good job", if genuine and heartfelt is damaging. I say this to other adults sometimes when I really think they have done a good job at something so why not my child?
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Old 01-05-2006, 01:49 AM
 
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Originally Posted by fly-mom
I am kind of a praise junkie, and I'll tell you with me it goes WAY deeper than having "good job" said to me one too many times. It was a general attitude from my mother that I had to always 'over achieve' to be worthy. I don't know if I can explain it that well, but it was way more than the window dressing of the particular words that were said or not said.
I know what you are getting at. I got that from my parents too. It was more than the lip service of "good job" or other type of praise that did it. It was very obvious in their tone, mannerisms, and behavior toward me that if I would not have their approval or any attention if I did not do the things they expected me to do. And then getting praised with words by other adults/teachers for being the "good girl" and doing as I was told. Bad set up for me, from which I'm still recovering.

However, I think the issue with "good job" is that is it is so overused, all in the name of "praise the kids and build their self-esteem." I have seen too many people use that phrase and *no other*. It's as if they can't think of any other words to say.
So yeah, I hate the phrase. But I don't condemn people who use it when it's heartfelt and honest.

I do condemn it when it's half-a$%ed.
I have seen kids begging their parents "Did you see me? Guess what I did today. Mom? Mom?" and then the kid gets a half-hearted "Yeah, yeah, good job, that's nice, honey" while the parent is not even looking at them. And then that parent thinks that they have done well because they praised the child. : Uh, no, you need to pay attention to the child and be genuine or tactful in your response. No need to gush and fawn like it's the eighth wonder of the world. But do try to show the child that you really do see and hear them. I mean, really, how would you treat another adult? You wouldn't praise ever little thing they did, but neither would you ignore them.

I think, as with most things, there is a certain balance needed.

Loon , dh , dd , and twins ds1 dd2 **Thoughts become things. - Mike Dooley**
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Old 01-05-2006, 08:18 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Wugmama
I LOVE to praise my dd, and get defensive when I start hearing various reasons why I shouldn't. I have said "Good job" so many times that my dd says it to me - and guess what, it makes me feel good!

That being said, I read a bit about praise in the "How to talk so your kids will listen..." book, and have tried to use the tools given there.

For example, when she gives me a piece of her treat, instead of saying "good job sharing" I will thank her and tell her, "You are a generous girl to share your treat with me". I can't remember exactly how the book puts it, but it made sense to me at the time about why this is a good thing to do. They can internalize something about themselves that they can carry with them rather than just a fleeting action, or something like that.

Also, if she shows me a pic she colored I might say, "Good job! I like how you chose lots of bright colors" so she knows I am really interested in her picture.

~Tracy


i dont get defensive, but i am dumbfounded about how people avoid praising children. i never received "good job" and "excellent work!" as a child and let me tell you, it does hurt the self esteem. i grew up completely clueless as to what my parents really thought about me and i assumed that they didnt think much.

i LOVE to tell seth "excellent work!" when he has accomplished something or "good job!" when he comes to me to show me something. to say that this is a bad way to raise your child is absultely utterly absurd.

Momma to DS 1, age 8 and rainbow baby DS2 4-21-11.
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