Five Reasons to Stop Saying 'Good Job!'

“Good job!” doesn’t reassure children; ultimately, it makes them feel less secure. It may even create a vicious circle such that the more we slather on the praise, the more kids seem to need it, so we praise them some more. Sadly, some of these kids will grow into adults who continue to need someone else to pat them on the head and tell them whether what they did was OK…. This doesn’t mean that all compliments, all thank-you’s, all expressions of delight are harmful. We need to consider our motives for what we say (a genuine expression of enthusiasm is better than a desire to manipulate the child’s future behavior) as well as the actual effects of doing so. Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life — or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head? —Alfie KohnFive Reasons to Stop Saying ‘Good Job!’ (

Kohn suggests that, instead of praising a child for drawing a picture (“Good drawing!”) we instead respond more neutrally, focusing our attention on what the child accomplished. (“You drew a big mountain! You sure used a lot of purple!”)

This makes a lot of sense to me, though I’d have to read more of Kohn’s work to decide how I feel it applies to my own teaching. Students who are used to being praised for effort can be flustered in college, where (most of the time, or at least in my classes anyway) simply expending effort is not good enough.

Found via Pedablogue. (Good job, Mike!)