A Little Less “Good Job” if You Please!

“Good Job;” we hear it wherever children are, whether at the park, school, store, or home. But what are we really saying when we toss those words out there to our children?  Of course we all want our children to feel good about themselves, and when we say “good job” we are simply trying to accomplish this. But the things that build our sense of self worth don’t come so much from outward praise as from inner satisfaction. When a child makes their own bed, even though it’s catawampus they may still take pride in the work they did and see it as an accomplishment. Don’t cheapen it by saying good job and DON’T FIX IT. Le t the job itself be the reward. It’s important to give children lots of time and opportunity to do things for themselves without an adult stepping in to “help” or to praise.

Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards and Unconditional Parenting  says;

“Good Job” is a remnant of an approach to psychology that reduces all of human life to behaviors that can be seen and measured. Unfortunately, this ignores the thoughts, feelings, and values that lie behind behaviors. For example, a child may share a snack with a friend as a way of attracting praise or a way a making sure the other child has enough to eat. Praise for sharing ignores these different motives. Worse, it actually promotes the less desirable motive by making children more likely to fish for praise in the future.

What kids…need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise—it’s the opposite of praise. ‘Good job’ is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for jumping through our hoops.

But the real problem isn’t that children expect to be praised…It’s that we’re tempted to take shortcuts, to manipulate kids with rewards instead of explaining and helping them to develop needed skills and good values.

So, what’s the alternative? That depends on the situation, but whatever we decide to say instead has to be offered in the context of genuine affection and love for who kids are rather than for what they’ve done. When unconditional support is present, ‘good job’ isn’t necessary; when it’s absent, ‘good job’ won’t help.”

~Alfie Kohn

I have to confess I am a former “good Job”er, but I began reading some of this research while in college and I had to admit that it made sense. So at Wellspring we simply say thank you to a child for the work they do. It’s simple…it’s respectful. Our goal is to help develop good morals and important skills needed so that children are prepared for future educational success and to equip them to fulfill God’s purpose in their lives.  After all that is the best way to achieve a positive self-worth!

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