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Why You Should Stop Telling Your Child 'Good Job!'

Why You Should Stop Telling Your Child 'Good Job!'

There are more constructive and effective ways to praise your child than defaulting to "Good job!" Here, Dr. Bartell explains why the phrase needs to be phased out of your vocabulary.


“Good job!” is, without a doubt, one of the most commonly used phrases, and one I would like to abolish—at least as a compliment given to kids! This is not to say I have never said it—I have…probably thousands of times, because it is just so easy to say.

The ease with which it rolls off one’s tongue is one of the reasons I don’t like it as a way to praise a child. We offer it without thought—complimenting performance that should not require such accolades. “Good job, you didn’t hit your sister” or “Good job, you finished your homework” or “Good job climbing those monkey bars.”


Don't overdo it.

It’s not to say that I don’t believe in compliments—I certainly do. However, when offered a little less frequently, kids are more likely to believe that you really mean it. More often than not, kids tell me that they rarely believe a parent when she offers a compliment, saying, “My mom thinks that everything I do is great…even when I know that it isn’t.” When adults are more judicious about issuing praise, kids will take it seriously. They may be young, but children deserve authentic praise, offered sincerely, and only when they truly do something that is praiseworthy.


Be specific about what you're praising.

Another reason that I would love to get rid of “good job” is that in almost every case, we are not actually praising a ‘job,’ but rather, a behavior. A job is what you do when you go to work and make money. This does not define a child’s action when he gets a good report card, is nice to a sibling, helps set the table, draws a colorful picture, puts on shoes correctly, or listens when you ask him to turn off the TV. If we indoctrinate children with language, causing them to believe that it is their ‘job’ to be respectful, fulfill obligations, or be creative, we actually damage their value systems—behaving appropriately should not be considered a job, it should be an integral part of growing up to become a productive, loving member of a community.

Finally, ‘good job’ doesn’t give a child any meaningful idea of what you are praising. For example, when you offer, “Good job, you picked up your towel,” are you complimenting their ability to hang the towel on the hook, to avoid a reprimand by not leaving it on the floor, or to be tidy? In order to reinforce age- and socially-appropriate behaviors, children need specific feedback about their actions.  A constructive comment might be, “I noticed you picked up your towel—I’m glad to see that you’re getting in the habit of doing that; the bathroom is tidier for everyone.” This comment helps a child to see that his behavior impacts other members of the household.  Another, more effective ‘good job’ replacement might be something like “Wow! You got a terrific report card—you must be proud to see your hard work pay off.” This acknowledgement ensures that your child learns that there is a connection between working hard and seeing results. In addition, the praise is not about doing the work for you, but rather for her benefit.

Banishing ‘good job’ from our parenting lexicon will, I’m sure, be a challenge. But I’m going to try hard to do it, and I really hope that you will join me in making an effort to offer kids more meaningful and constructive praise—when appropriate. They deserve at least this much from us!


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Susan Bartell, Psy.D.


Susan Bartell, Psy.D., is a Long Island-based, nationally recognized child psychologist, speaker, and award-winning author. Dr. Bartell is a media expert, frequently seen on CBS, ABC, FOX, and CNN. She is the author of seven books, including the highly-acclaimed The Top 50 Questions Kids Ask. You can learn more about her at or follow her on Twitter @drsusanbartell.

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