Are You a "Good Job" Junkie?

As a coach who works primarily in prekindergarten classes, I frequently hear teachers praise children throughout the day by saying, “Good job.”  It usually brings a brief smile to a child’s face, but sometimes I’m not even sure the child or the class knows why they are receiving praise.  So, here is where I admit--- I am a recovering “good job” junkie.  I have to willfully refrain from letting the words roll off my tongue. Is saying “good job” such a horrible thing to do?  After all, it is a positive affirmation.


Here are some reasons to explain why we need to change how we are delivering positive reinforcement:


·Praise may work in the short-term because young children are hungry for our approval. In the long-term, children may ignore it or perceive it as manipulation.

·Praise can reduce achievement. Once a student receives praise during an activity, they are likely to abandon the activity.

·Praise places your judgment on the child or the child’s work.  Don’t we want children to intrinsically feel and state their own accomplishment?  Overuse of praise can actually cause children to become “praise junkies” as they will rely on adults for evaluation.


What are some replacements for saying “good job?”


·Provide feedback in statements free of judgment. “I noticed you cleaned up after yourself today before changing centers.” “You wrote four letters in your name.”

·Use questioning or commenting to allow the child to describe the process. “Tell me how you discovered the fastest way for the car to move down the ramp.” When they want you to look at their artwork, you can say, “What do you want me to notice?”

·Notice the effort children are making. “I saw you make it across 3 monkey bars today and yesterday you only could do two bars.”

·When children are helpful, thank them for their helpfulness. “Thank you for picking up the paper towels in the restroom.”


For more ideas on replacing the words “good job,” read the article 10X: "Good Job" Alternatives from the National Association for The Education of Young Children.  As a former “good job” junkie, I know the struggle is real—but we owe it to our children.



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Training Spotlight

1st-3rd grade educators worked together to learn engaging ways to develop number sense. Students will develop fact fluency while playing games that use their number sense strategies. By learning their facts in this way, students are not merely memorizing, but rather learning to work with numbers flexibly.  “Low achievers are often low achievers not because they know less but because they don’t use numbers flexibly – they have been set on the wrong path, often from an early age, of trying to memorize methods instead of interacting with numbers flexibly.” Jo Boaler,  Stanford University, 2009


April 8, 2019

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