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2160 S. State Rte. 157, Suite B, Glen Carbon, IL 62034


Kids love to be praised for their accomplishments. And adults naturally want to celebrate a child’s successes by saying, “Good job!” But this vague cliché may not be the best way to inspire a youngster to keep going. Worse, saying “good job” for the wrong reasons can turn children into “praise junkies,” argues speaker and author Alfie Kohn in the 2001 article “Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job.”

For example, Kohn argues, when adults use the phrase to reward a child’s good behavior, like picking up their toys, instead of actual accomplishments, it can have a manipulative effect. “Is it possible that telling kids they’ve done a good job may have less to do with their emotional needs than with our convenience?” Kohn asks.

As a result, children can work for praise, not for the accomplishment itself. Plus, “good job” does not specify what the young person did that was good or why it was successful. Here are some alternative ways to encourage and reward kids.

Ask Questions

To shine a spotlight on the child’s accomplishment and how they achieved it, ask specific questions like:

What do you like best about your project?
Can you tell me how you did that?
What do you think you might do next time?
What was the hardest thing you did to accomplish your goal?

This approach gets you involved in the youngster’s activity. You are not just patting the child on the shoulder and walking away.

Say thank you

When a child’s actions are helpful to you, “thank you” can be a better response than “good job.” After they complete a task like cleaning a bedroom, hanging clothes up neatly or making the bed, thanking them shows their actions are appreciated. This is positive reinforcement. Early childhood teachers learn this in training. Parents often forget it.

Focus on the accomplishment

When you’re going over a child’s homework or looking at a piece of art they created or some other project, consider words of encouragement that are more specific than “good job”:

It looks like you really understand the concept.
You did it in a new way.
I can see you are on the right track and making progress.
You should be proud of what you have done.
I’m very impressed with your accomplishment.
What a nice picture (dance, sculpture, etc.)!

Complimenting a child on their choice of color or design or talking to the child about how they did a project shows that you are interested and care about them.


Smiling can be a great way to show appreciation to a youngster, telling them you enjoyed their project, experiment, artwork, music or sport. A smile and words of encouragement are especially helpful for children learning how to play an instrument or a new game, which can be frustrating for them. A smile or cheering them on can inspire them to keep going:

I know you can do it!
You’re learning the right way!
You did it!

At Bard & Didriksen Pediatrics in Glen Carbon, we work with parents to keep children not just healthy but also happy. Questions about your child’s physical or mental health? Contact us to make an appointment with one of our expert providers.