I posted this article, 5 Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” by Alfie Kohn on Boy Mama Teacher Mama’s Facebook Page, I actually read this article for the first time when I was in college studying to be a teacher (over 20 years ago- yikes!), but it is still very relevant today and even somewhat controversial.
In the article Kohn argues that saying “good job” to your children…
- is actually a way adults manipulate children into doing what we want them to do.
- creates praise junkies who are dependent on us and who rely on our evaluations, our decisions about what is good/bad/right/wrong instead of learning from their own judgements.
- is stealing their pleasure by telling them what to feel instead of simply letting them feel it themselves.
- actually leads to disinterest in the activity they are doing. Saying, “good job” tells the child that something is not valuable in its own right, but is valuable only for getting recognition from an adult.
- reduces achievement and causes children to stumble at the next task because of the pressure to keep it up gets in the way of doing so. They spend their time concentrating on how to continue getting praise and causes them to stop taking the risks necessary to learn and be creative.
- Say nothing! Silence is golden after all.
- Say what you saw-- This tells your child that you noticed and still allows him to take pride in what he did. “You put your shoes on by yourself!” If he does something kind, draw attention to the effect he had on the other person. “Look at Bob’s face! He seems pretty happy that you shared with him.”
- Talk less and ask more- Instead of telling your child what he did that so impressed you, ask him what him what he likes best in his picture or how he figured out how to draw the hands so well.
Now, you may or may not believe 100% in what Kohn is saying. It makes sense when you read it on paper, but in reality, how much does it really harm my child to them that they are doing a good job? Well, I took it into my own hands and did a bit of an experiment with my boys. For the past 24 hours, I have made a very concerted effort to NOT say “good job,” but instead to do what Kohn recommends. Here is what happened.
- My son cleaned his room this morning (without any prompting). He asked me if he did a good job and I said, “Cleaning your room sure makes it easier to get around and find the things we want to play with?” He smiled.
- This afternoon, when my son sat quietly at the bank while I dealt with my transaction, instead of saying, “You did a good job!” I said, “Sitting quietly while I took care of my business, made things much easier for me. Thank you.” Wow, that took a lot more thought than saying, “Good job,” but the smile on my son’s face was sooooo worth it! On the way home, he kept saying things like, ”Are you proud of me for sitting quietly? Did I do a good job?? Yikes, maybe he IS dependent on my praise. I didn’t panic, instead I simply restated what I said earlier and then said, “How do you feel about what you did?” His answer? “I am proud of myself.”
It is not easy to change the way you talk to your children especially when you are with them 24/7 and the dogs always seem to be barking, some meal has to be made, a diaper always needs changing and the phone is constantly ringing, but try making the change just for a bit and see how it goes. I am going to continue this challenge and see what happens. I will let you all know how it goes. If you try it, will you too?