How do you perform at work, at college, or anywhere else when you have someone looming over you declaring “Good job!” every time you scratch a pencil, burp or sneeze? You probably don’t have anyone doing this, but the average kid seems to. I feel worse for kids who get zero attention from their parents, of course, but this whole “Good job!” crap has to stop.
For one thing, our kids know it when we are telling them BS. They might scribble and see what we say just for the hell of it—I know my daughter has!—and when they get upset declaring a masterpiece a train wreck, we step in and say, “No, it’s beautiful!” They. Know. Better. Art is in the eye of the beholder, sure, but it’s their work; let them determine its value.
I want my daughter to have an internal compass that guides her actions, something she can be accountable for by herself. I don’t want her peeking over her shoulder for validation every step of the way to hear “Good job!” for every move she makes—like I desperately wanted as a child.
I don’t only want her to develop a sense of right and wrong that she uses as her guide rather than my voice; I also don’t want her growing up feeling as if she has to please me. I want her to please herself. That said, I still have trouble breaking the automatic habit, and continue to work on it every day.
For more information about the harms of excessive praise and alternative language to use, check out Good Job! And Other Things You Shouldn’t Say or Do.