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!”?
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!”