Whenever I hear a parent or teacher say "good job!" to a child (or to anyone!), it makes my skin crawl. I know it is said with good intentions, but it is such a bland phrase. It is a "verbal doggie biscuit," to quote a well-known educator. All that it says to the child is Mommy is satisfied with what I did. It's all about pleasing Mommy or teacher. End of story. Listen to how often you say that phrase!
But praise is actually a very useful and meaningful tool in raising children. You probably don't even give it a second thought...but you should. The way in which you praise your child can enhance her development in really positive ways.
There are two things about praise for you to know. First, children need to learn to be self-praising; the idea is for the praise to be intrinsic, to come from within. This is crucial because we want our children to learn to be their own judges and not to rely on others for feedback and evaluation. Children who are constantly told "good job" for everything they do come to rely on that buzz phrase and on you. They become praise and approval addicted.
Second, praise is supposed to encourage children to do more of the same, more of whatever has just elicited your exclamation. Saying "good job" does the opposite. It also puts an end to the action. It is final, over and done, good enough, no need to do that again. But praise should motivate the child to do it again.
In that same vein, when praise is a judgment, as in good job, it chips away at the child's ability to judge herself. The child comes to rely on you or the adult in charge to tell her what is right or wrong, good or bad. She learns to measure her worth in terms of your judgment. How can that be a good thing?
Praise-addicted children grow up to be praise-dependent adults, the ones who need a good job slap on the back in order to feel good about themselves. They are not self motivated. Rather, they are forty-year-olds who still are seeking their parents' approval.
Here are some tips for making the most out of praising your child:
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