“Ms. Nichole, I ate all my carrots!” the 2.5 year old told me.
”Oh yeah! How did they taste?” I asked.
And on and on we talked - about delicious, crunchy, healthy carrots.

Had I told her what she wanted to hear/had grown accustomed to hearing: “Good Job!” our conversation would have stopped there, and she would have learned that what I think/feel about her carrot eating matters more than what she thinks.

Which is wildly untrue.

Adults simply overdo it when it comes to congratulating a child on an accomplished task.  While the intention of using praise, such as “good job”, comes from a place of good intentions, it does not serve the child as they construct themself for life.

This is precisely the problem with praise, or at least praise aimed at performance. It’s like crack for kids: Once they get, they need it, and they want more. And the real world doesn’t praise them for getting dressed in the morning.
— Jenny Anderson, The New York Times

If the goal is for the child to be a confident being who accomplishes daily tasks for themself, we have to come to understand that giving constant praise for tasks is ultimately setting them up for failure. 

What the use of “good job” does is not only drive your child to accomplish tasks for you rather than for themself, but they also become empty words when used over and over and over again.

So what does one do, especially when we get so excited for the child when they accomplish a task, reach a milestone, or paint a glorious picture? 

First off, it is okay to think the words in your head. I want you to be proud of your child. I want you to recognize that yes, when they got undressed all by themself they did in fact do a great job at it.  However, do not speak those specific words. 

Instead, simply say, “You did it!”

Or “thank you”.

How grand it must feel for the child who has worked tirelessly at a task that for you and I is so simple (i.e. getting dressed), to feel within that they did it. What an opportunity to open up the world to them, building confidence, worth and a feeling of being capable of so much more!

Get creative and BE MINDFUL about what you say to your child before you say it. The words you speak, in any given moment, matter much more than you may think. Choose your words wisely and put value and meaning into what you say. 

Your child will thank you for it later in life, maybe not by their words, but by their actions as they navigate life, not seeking praise, but because they know know their capabilities and worth.

 Other phrases that you can use with your child in replace of “Good job”:

State the Obvious
“I see you put on your pants all by yourself. Now, can you put on your socks too?”

“I see that you used a lot of blue while you were painting. And look, some circles too.”

“I saw you while you were working with that puzzle, it looked like you were working really hard, and you did it!”

“Look, we made this bread together and it tastes so delicious. Remember when you poured in the olive oil?”

Bring It Back to the Child
“I see that you ate all your carrots at dinner. Did they taste good?”

“Wow, you cleaned up your room all by yourself. It must feel nice to have a clean space to play in now.”

“You put on one shoe. Now, can you do the other one too?”

"Thank you for getting dressed so quickly this morning."

"Thank you for putting your lunchbox away when we got home."

You can find Jenny Anderson's full article here.