So I’m sure if I were to do a scan of my posts, the number one word used would be “specific.” At least I feel like I’ve typed it several, several times. But it’s my hill to die on. Specificity makes a huge difference for children of all abilities because it gives them a concrete framework for learning; as we should all know by now, young children live in the concrete, tangible, here-and-now world.
Confession time: I am totally, 100% guilty of hollow or distracted praise. Giving a half-hearted “good job” to Chicka Chicka over the rim of my phone is not something I’m proud of, but I know I’m not the only one.
So let’s make a parent pact to give sincere, specific, constructive praise.
But how do you do that?
Well, here’s a formula for avoiding the GJ word: (Hmmmm… somehow I don’t think that abbreviation will catch on. Shame.)
1) Start with the reaction the good behavior caused. Something like, “I like how you…” or “It makes me happy when….”
2) Focus on what the child did rather than an abstract concept. Saying “you worked so hard!” reinforces what the child did as opposed to saying “You’re so smart!”
3) Bring it back around to the current situation. This could mean referring to something specific (see, there I go again!) on their picture, building, etc. I also think this is a perfect segway into getting more communication out of your child. See LINK about NOT asking questions to facilitate communication.
Here’s an example of using this formula. Say your child brings you a picture of…well…. you’re not entirely sure what. But you can see by the light in their eyes that they are so excited about it, and they’ve been working on it for ten minutes. You put down what you’re doing, look at it, make eye contact with your child, and say,
” It makes me happy when you work so hard on a picture. Tell me about what your picture is about!”
You see that? Easy peasy, and your child knows you will respond when they share something with you. Bonus points in that your child also doesn’t know that you don’t have a clue what you’re looking at.
If you need more ideas for what to say beyond “good job!” check out this pdf over on east.aurorak12.org (HERE) with 100 Ways to say Good Job!
Good luck! It is so engrained in us to say good job, so don’t beat yourself up if it still slips out. The point is to use praise in a constructive way that builds a relationship with your child.