Why Saying "Good Job" Isn't So Good

Let me give you an example.

First of all, in our Kindermusik classes we hear, "Good job," a lot.

Children put instruments away. "Good job. You did it. Yay."

What's happening is, is that we are actually giving a judgment statement.

"Good. Good job. Good job."

But let me ask you this.

Which do you think is more meaningful to your child?

"Good job," or

"You put the sticks away in the basket. You thought about walking all the way across the room to put them away. You did it. That was helpful."

Which one do you think has more meaning for your child?

Well, the second one describes a lot more about what your child did.

I often say, "Be the narrator of your child's video."

When you notice what your child is doing and when you say, "Kathy, you walked across the room to put your sticks away. That was helpful,"

Your child is now picturing in their head, "Oh my goodness. I walked myself all the way across the room. I used self-control. I used inhibitory control. I used the musical cue of "Sticks away," and I put my sticks away all by myself. I did it, and I was being helpful."

Children innately want to help.

Use words to describe characteristics that we think of as positive, like helpful, thoughtful, careful, "You worked hard at putting colors together to paint the sky and the trees."

Let's talk about a piano lesson. "You carefully put one finger after another, following the notes. You thought about it and you worked hard. You did it. You played that musical passage."

That is so much more meaningful because you are describing what your child has done.

Now they have a memory map of picturing themselves doing it.

If you say, "Good job," I'm going to ask you what was so good?

I don't know. I have no idea what was good.

If you are clapping and saying, "Good job," all the time when your child does something, what happens when you forget to say, "Good job," or you forget to cheer them on?

They might think, "Uh oh. Am I not good?"

Let me put this in a different perspective for you.

You walk down the stairs every morning and your partner says something like, "That blue blouse brings out the color of your eyes. It's so beautiful."

The next day, "Oh, I love that dress on you."

The next day, "Oh, that outfit is sensational."

The next day, "You know what, honey? That color is great on you. I love that."

Then the next day, nothing.

What are you going to think?

"Oh my gosh. I don't look very good today. I must not look very good. My partner said nothing."

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Put yourself in your child's brain.

I say this all the time. Put yourself in the mind of your child.

What do they really, really need to know and hear from you?

They need to know that you notice them.

You can prove to them that you notice them by describing what they're doing.

Then you can tell them what kind of character they are.

"That was helpful."

"That was cautious."

"That was careful."

"That was thoughtful."

These are things that you want your child to become.

Guess what? Children often become what they hear that you say they are.

What's happening when you say, "Good job," you are judging them.

You are giving them a judging statement.

“That's good, that's bad, that's awful, that's great, that's wonderful, that's beautiful.”

"Oh, what a beautiful shirt."

"Oh, what a beautiful dress."

Or you can say, "You have stars on your dress."

When I say that, the child looks down and points to the stars and smiles because she knows I noticed her.

If I say, "Oh, you look pretty today." Then the next time, the next week she comes in and I don't say that, she might think, "I don't look very pretty."

Rather than giving your child judgment statements like pretty, beautiful, good, great, wonderful, "You're the best," let's make it meaningful.

Let's tell them what they did and why we think that is a good thing.

If you catch yourself saying, "Good," you can say, "Good for you. You did it."

This takes a lot of practice. It's not going to happen overnight.

We talk about it in our classes all the time, and I still hear "Good job" all the time every week. It's okay. It's something to work towards.

Try it today.

Try to stop yourself from being the cheerleader and saying, "Good job. Good job."

That isn't meaningful enough to your child.

Your child needs to know what they did, describe what they did, and tell them they're helpful, they're thoughtful, they're careful, they're loving, and see if that makes a difference as to how they look at you, and how they smile, and how they feel so wonderful that you noticed them.

Hopefully you're thinking and processing, "How can I make this work for me and my child?"

If you have a spouse or a partner or another parent living with you, go ahead and discuss this with them, too, because consistency is very, very important.

When I see you at Kindermusik next week or one of our other teachers sees you at Kindermusik, ask us if you have any questions about this, or let's see in class if you can try to say, "You did it. You put the sticks away. That was helpful."