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What To Do Instead of Saying, “Good Job!”

Parents are often told to praise their kids when something good happens, but what exactly does that look like?

African-American father and his young son brushing their teeth at the same time in a bathroom.


Statements such as, “good job!” or “I’m proud of you!” are common ones we hear and say. However, it is important to note that exploring more than just “good job, buddy” with your child not only supports their development, but also fosters a healthier parent-child relationship. You might ask: how do we explore more?


As a therapist who works with parents and children, I encourage you to utilize one or more of the following steps:


Observe and Describe What You See

Offering an evaluation-free statement will let your child know that you notice them. Examples:

•           “You remembered to put your clothes away.”

•           “I noticed how patiently you waited.”

•           “Wow! Look at how carefully you organized your room.”


Ask Questions to Encourage and Facilitate Self-Reflection

This allows children to develop their own perspective of their accomplishments.


•           “What was the hardest and easiest part for you?”

•           “What would you do differently?”

•           “How did you feel when _______?”

Highlight the Process When Giving Compliments

Everyone progresses differently. The process is where we learn. Therefore, highlighting effort will boost your child’s self-esteem and create motivation to continue what works for them.


•           “I admire that you kept trying on your homework even when it was tough.”

•           “You finished your project! Your hard work really shows!”


Be Specific in Your Compliment

It is valuable for your child to understand why they are being praised.


•           “You cleaned your room by yourself!”

•           “You paused and practiced your breathing when you felt overwhelmed.”


Appreciate Positive Behaviors

Gratitude is a great way to acknowledge that you see and hear your child.


•           “Thank you for cleaning your room.”

•           “I appreciate you for giving it a try.”

•           “Thank you for staying focused and completing the assignment.”


From my experience working with children, they appreciate and grow when their accomplishments are praised. Acknowledging their wins (big or small) can make an impact on their development, behavior, and create a more positive parent-child relationship. Remember, consistency is key when implementing positive encouragement. What step interests you the most to try?


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