I have recently read a blog post where she brought up this article from Parents Magazine. It’s an article about “10 things you should never say to your kids” – and I think some of them are rubbish. Here’s a few:
- Great Job
- You’re OK
- Be Careful
- Let me Help
The thing is, it is all about context. The article goes into a 1 paragraph explanation about why each one is “bad,” and to be honest, most of their reasons only make sense in hindsight. For example, if you say “let me help” as a way of always jumping in to finish your kids’ stuff so it is perfect, then yes, that is not good. But if you say, “let me help” once the kid asks for help, or as a way to teach them to ask for help when they need it, then I think you should say it.
But the reason I write is because of the concept of not saying “good job.” This blog I read (which I really wish I could find again, it was nicely written), took issue with not saying good job to your kid, because she is already seeing the positive effects of her toddler saying those very words to her when she likes something.
I have caught myself saying “good job” to the little guy long before this article came to my attention, and it’s because positive reinforcement to reinforce his actions is how we want to raise our child. Saying “good job” is another way of saying, “son, you did XX the way we want you to in this family, keep on doing it that way.” So for example, when he brushes his teeth with me and does it as we want him to, it’s “good job.”
The idea of not saying those words to your child is that it can diminish their own self-confidence and make it so they rely on those words rather than their own motivation. But I can tell you as a person who did not hear those words constantly in my childhood (it’s not like I never heard them, but they were not just thrown around), that I also like to hear those words. And I simply do not believe that if you genuinely mean it when you say good job, that it can hurt the child’s confidence, especially when you compare that statement with all the other things that you could say and/or do that could hurt the confidence.
So basically, I do not think never telling your kids “good job” is the answer. What a piece of absolutely horrible advice. Maybe a better bit of advice is not to over-do it or mindlessly say “good job.” For example, sometimes I am at the playroom and I see a helper or a parent on their cell phone, not even looking up, saying “be careful.” So I guess if you are using “good job” in that way, then you should stop.
It is hard not to screw up your child, especially with so much conflicting advice out there. But one thing I will never do is to stop positively reinforcing the behaviors of my son. I will try not to do it too often so that it is meaningless, but he will know what is a “good job” and what is not. It is much more uplifting to positively reinforce the good behaviors than to walk around saying “no” or getting upset about the negative behaviors. The one piece of advice from the article was to keep it focused when you give that praise, so they know it is connected to something – it all just shows that you care; that you are present. I guess that’s the first step.