“Good job!” …Good job doing what?

Many kindergarten teachers will tell you they want their new students to come to school with many tools in their toolbox, but at the top of their list is emotional confidence and social skills. Current research demonstrates that children with strong emotional and social foundations are more likely to be successful learners for a lifetime. Early childhood educators recognize how important this is and try to help foster these skills in many ways. One of these ways is through praise. I often hear teachers use statements like, “Good job!” or “Great work!”, but are these phrases enough? What does a child internalize when an adult says “Good job!”?

What does it mean to a child when you just say "Good job!"?

What does it mean to a child when you just say “Good job!”?

As children go through their day hearing these same phrases repeated to everyone in the classroom, it becomes generic. It’s not meaningful, it’s not concrete. Some children may not even realize what they did to earn that praise. By using these generic statements, we are missing an opportunity to help build a strong foundation for emotional and social development.

Praises should meaningful to that individual child, they should be concrete, and they should re-enforce what that child did that was so great. Praises should be encouraging and create motivation within the child. Attaching the child’s action to the phrase “Good job” is a great way to make this praise authentic and personal. This strategy will also allow other children to hear positive statements regarding classroom expectations and social interactions.

Think about what that child did that was impressive before speaking. Did the child use their words to problem solve or offer a hug to a classmate feeling sad? Did the child write the first letter in their name or build a tall structure in the block area? Or did the child explore paint in a new way by mixing and creating new colors? All of these accomplishments feel big to the child. If educators acknowledge these accomplishments in a concrete way, it will empower the child and promote emotional and social development. Children’s emotional and social development will flourish as they begin to genuinely understand WHAT they did that was “great!”

This entry was posted in Best Practice, Early Childhood, Preschool and tagged on by .

About Tracy Schnirring

I am a professional development specialist at 4C for Children My main role is supporting preschool teachers through classroom coaching to best practice and Step Up To Quality (Ohio’s star-rating system). I am also certified to conduct program/child assessments and facilitate several workshops for 4C. In addition to my role at 4C, I am a daughter, sister, aunt, friend, and mother. The person who brings me the most joy in life is my 7-year-old boy. Outside of work, I enjoy spending time with family and friends, playing sports with my son, and being outdoors.

One thought on ““Good job!” …Good job doing what?

  1. Latia Houston

    I really like this article. Not only is does it help to guide you as a teacher in using what I like to call Appropriate Praise, it’s very helpful at home as well. I find myself saying “Good job!” or “Yay” a lot to my son, who is a toddler. Sometimes he smiles and looks proud but other times he just continues what he is doing and pays me no attention. I am always striving to encourage him to use his language and say more word, so I’ve find that taking a second to pause and say exactly what he did that warranted that “Good job!” is really helping me. I speak more to him and this in turn encouraged him to use more words. This article just makes me happy and encourages me to keep using appropriate praise. (It doesn’t hurt that he also repeats everything that I say lol!)

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