I heard a woman telling a boy. No need to say, I cringed. The expressions “good girl!” “good boy!” or the “good job!” “great job!” statements directed to a child sometimes make me feel sick.
I tell you why: because for me “good boy” or “good job” are just plain attempts to show a positive attitude, some sort of positive input to encourage the receiver of this so-called compliment to carry on doing good.
In my view, when someone says to a girl “good girl” because she did something right is just an over used compliment. How about if instead of saying “good girl” we actually acknowledge what was done right in order to be judged “good”? How about if we say “Your drawing looks amazing! I like the way you used the yellow!” or “I’m so happy you helped to tidy up that corner of the room! Thanks to you it looks very nice”.
Instead of saying “good boy” or “great job” how about saying “Wow! Your homework looks great and I can tell you have put effort into it! I am looking forward to have a look at it”. Or how about saying “What you just did looks amazing!”.
I feel swapping the simple two-word expression for something a bit more elaborate, where it is mentioned what was done, compliment on a detail, it may make the receiver of this compliment feel more appreciated and cared for; it may make the giver focus 5 minutes of attention (even 2 minutes or perhaps 3!) on the result and be present, truly present in body and mind to give appreciation and acknowledgement instead of a bland “judgement” with a “great job” or “good boy”.
Believe me, the receiver will feel it – particularly if we are talking about children – and they will feel appreciated, not judged.
And this is a key word. Appreciation. When you give a child a compliment such as “ I like the way you coloured the flower” instead of “great job” “looks good!” you are showing the child you put enough attention to her work to notice the different colours; this showing of appreciation can open the gates for the child to start to tell you a story about a flower; or her interpretation of the colours; or may prompt said child to go and paint many more flowers.
And many more flowers will imply the child exploring how to mix colours, how to use the brush how to apply pressure on the paper, how to hold the brush and what happens when you mix all the colours. This is pure learning!
Or it may mean for that child that someone does look at her drawings and make her feel cared for. Which is equally important if not more than the physical and intellectual side of things.
When you ask a boy to tidy up and he does so and you acknowledge it with “I am grateful to you because you tidy up that corner and now it looks so much better” you are acknowledging the boy, the person, and the effort put into the task; you are showing you did put attention to what he has done, you did observed and you are appreciating him. It sounds so much richer and fuller than the bland “good boy” “great job” or “finally you did it”.
Shall I mention that chances are this boy will continue to tidy up to the best of his ability and it will do it perhaps even without being asked? Shall I start to list the amount of learning that goes into the tidy up? From spatial awareness to fine motor skills, you name it. Add to that he will feel appreciated, so a fabulous emotion is being nourished.
I feel we should start a revolution, erasing the bland two-word praise and replace it with a bit of presence and heart.