“Good Job! shoot…I mean NOT good job! Er, um, what was I supposed to say again?”

September 24, 2013

I recently read somewhere that you should not say, “Good Job!” to your kids. Apparently these two seemingly innocuous words will screw with your child’s psyche and he/she will be doomed for life because it will give them a false sense of self due to praise directed toward the outcome instead of recognizing their hard effort for task completion…. (big inhale)… Instead, you are supposed to say, “You really worked hard. You must be proud of yourself.” This statement puts the emphasis on the achievement and the work involved and helps the child to internalize the greatness of their doings as their own without shifting the focus to parental approval.

Okay. So, your tellin’ me that when my boy shows me a picture he drew of our family while I am making dinner and juggling two other hooligans I can no longer yell, “Good job, sweetie! I love it!” over my shoulder.


(Do you think he knows I’m not pregnant anymore? Sorry. Digression.)

In the midst of the chaos I must remind myself of how those words are detrimental to his health. And it would be all-my-fault. I just learned about the negative side effects of a good old fashioned “good job” a few weeks ago. I can only hope that 4 years of “good job-ing” my son hasn’t screwed him up too badly. And then I got to thinking. If “good job” is such damaging phrase, what else have I said to my kids that could potentially destroy their chances of becoming independent, self-sufficient, confident, happy people….????

Here is what I came up with followed by my own analysis of the potential damage factor which shall be abbreviated as PDF. (Please keep in mind that I do not have a degree in psychology, but this whole “good job” thing really got my wheels turning):

1. If you guys don’t start listening to me I am going to have the police come to our house to make sure you are behaving!!!

PDF: This statement imposes a false threat while simultaneously undermining my own authority which may result in a loss of respect from my children coupled with a feeling of betrayal… and I’m pretty sure Officer Friendly wouldn’t be too happy with this either.

2.  You can let mommy help you brush your teeth or we can let your teeth rot and then the dentist will have to drill your teeth. Brush or drill. Your choice. 

PDF: While giving my children a choice is a good technique for helping them gain a sense of control, this statement borders being a scare tactic which consequently pigeon-holes my son into doing what I want him to do because the second choice is so horrifying, thus undermining his own sense of self and ability to make sound choices. 

3. Get up. You’re fine! (said to my son who has just fallen off his bike and is crying.)

PDF: Some may categorize this statement as “tough love”, but long term, it might teach my child to supress his emotions… We all know this is never a good thing. bikefall

4. If you eat all your carrots you will get big and strong like Daddy.

PDF: This white lie may stick with my child forever and when he grows up he’ll likely realize that carrots have little to do with physical strength. He will proceed to question everything I’ve ever told him deeming our relationship to be based upon deception. Worst case: He will disown me and suggest that his family relocate to be closer to his in-laws. 

5. I don’t care if your socks are wrinkly. Let’s go!

PDF: The problematic issues with this statement are two-fold. 1. I am, again, undermining the feelings of my child and deeming them unimportant. 2. I am also rushing my child which I read in another article is yet one more thing parents aren’t supposed to do.  I should be sending the message that every moment of life should be cherished and not hurried even if it takes my son 23 minutes to put on his socks and shoes and we are late for school. I am sure the teachers would understand…

Hmmm… right now “Good job” is looking pretty good.

Crap. I also let my kids eat unwashed un-organic grapes last week. I wonder what the anti-good-job-people would have to say about that?

Nobody ever said parenting was easy……please pray for my children.

  • Natalie
    September 24, 2013 at 8:53 pm

    Hahaha! I’m guilty -especially “get up ! you’re fine!!!”

  • casey leigh
    September 24, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    LOL! Totally agree! Liz and I were just talking about our PDF thoughts while grocery shopping… god forbid we buy anything with more than 3 ingredients on the label!!!!

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 24, 2013 at 9:57 pm

      Seriously, so much to think about it could make your brain explode! And to think we used to eat Gushers and Pop Tarts!

  • Jamey
    September 24, 2013 at 9:07 pm

    Aunt Z- Great post. You made me laugh…. we’re moving to Rhode Island next week for fear of your comments negatively impacting our daughter. Nice work.


    • Sisters to Sons
      September 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      Jame, Please don’t go! I promise I am working on my parenting skillz and would never ever dream of saying “good job” to Ruby!

  • Stephanie
    September 25, 2013 at 7:48 am

    Oh boy, I’m guilty of a few of these. I remember clapping when my oldest fell one time. He was around 1 year old and wasn’t sure if he should cry, so I figured I would applaud him to distract him.That’s probably got him totally screwed up now, right? I’m with you… Good Job is looking pretty good!

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:07 pm

      LOL, Stephanie! The totally cry or laugh based on our reaction… why not applaud and see how it goes?!

  • Heather M
    September 25, 2013 at 8:33 am

    Maybe I AM screwing my kids up but I remember clearly how awesome it felt when one of my parents said “good job”. I don’t feel like I am a screwed up mess. In fact, even now it makes me feel a sense of achievement. Or maybe that’s what’s wrong with me. Seriously though. No matter what we do we are screwing them up so I will just muddle along and do my best. I guess I’m not suppose to say “good job” on this post but you get what I’m thinking, right?

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:09 pm

      Hysterical, Heather! My mom read this post and said she used to always tell us “good job”… and I don’t think I’m that screwed up either! If someone could just write a parenting rule book it would be much appreciated. 🙂

  • Jessica
    September 25, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Hey Lindsey! Here is an article we used to give parents during the first week of school, re: 5 reasons to stop saying good job…
    I think he does a great job explaining it too- parenting sure can be complicated, but
    I’m 100% sure they will turn out ok with a few “good jobs” thrown in there 😉 haha!
    Love your blog!
    🙂 Jess

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:11 pm

      Thanks, Jess! When I started investigating this “good job” thing I came across that article by Alfie Kohn. And trust me, I totally get what he is saying, but at the same time I know our parents said good job to us and I think we turned out okay! SO many things to think about can drive a mom crazy! Can’t wait to meet your little guy… let’s plan something!!

      • Jessica
        September 25, 2013 at 1:40 pm

        Would love to see you and meet your newest addition- I am sure Katie would be in too!
        C and I can go around yours and Katie’s schedules (3 kids vs. 1 = you pick! ha!)

  • Sarah Hughes
    September 25, 2013 at 10:21 am

    OH!! I ALWAYS say “Get up you are FINE” and some parents look at me horrified while tears are streaming down my child’s face. I then give them the stink eye and I tell my kids “good job” all the time, they love it!

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:12 pm

      hahah! I know, I get the same look from other parents. It’s a tough world out there… just preparing my kids young!

  • Gina Badalaty
    September 25, 2013 at 12:32 pm

    LOL, hilarious! Ok, first of all “good job” is the thing that EVERY THERAPIST EVER told my kids. So it’s part of our house, and I’ve started to hate it, but now they expect it. But don’t worry, in 5 years “You really worked hard. You must be proud of yourself” will be a no-no when all those kids are determined to be egotistical and narcissistic. Or whatever the trend says we did wrong…lol. OH, and FYI, “Get up, you’re fine.” is my middle name…

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:13 pm

      You are so right, Gina! Next week we will be back to saying good job and something else will be out. I guess we just have to do what feels right and go with it?!

  • Xandra
    September 25, 2013 at 1:30 pm

    Love this! Thanks so much for sharing. A great reminder that we love our kids, and do the best we can with the details.

    • Sisters to Sons
      September 25, 2013 at 1:34 pm

      Exactly! I am pretty sure if I hug them enough it will reverse all the negative effects of saying “good job”!!

  • Caitlin
    September 25, 2013 at 2:06 pm

    HAHAHA I love this! Working in a daycare I learned the not to say good job thing. BUt when I had my daughter it was so hard not to tell her good job all the time!

  • claudia krusch
    September 26, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    Totally guilty! Love your post! 🙂

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