5 Ways To Make A Kid Happier- Part Five

This series is all about 5 easy ways to make a kid happier that may seem a little crazy at first! Click here to read Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

5) Stop Saying, “Good Job.”

One of the most pivotal articles I ever read in my Early Childhood Education degrees was Alfie Kohn’s “Stop Saying “Good Job”  It was like holding up a mirror and a mute button simultaneously. I loved working with kids; it came naturally to me, I was accumulating all of these student loans to learn about them, but was I doing this all wrong?

What Kohn writes about in his article is why we need to change how we talk with children, especially regarding praise and positive encouragement. Seems backward, right? No, I’m not telling you to stop praising or saying positive things to your kid. They are awesome, and they should know that!

Changing your speech to focus on what is most important will have much bigger outcomes  on making a happier kid. For instance, when we say “good job,” we give them our adult approval of whatever they did. They will continue to seek our approval until it turns into this spiral of doing things to make us say those words without any true motivation. 

While they may still be young now, our ways of speaking to young children have long-lasting effects. Since this is normal for us, we will continue to speak to them this way even as they get older. Later, you may notice that they change their once people-pleasing ways for less-desirable habits. It’s because they never really wanted to act in that people-pleasing way in the first place. 

For example, when my son started to explore drawing, he would excitedly show me his colorful scribbles. If my answer were just, “Good job,” he would understand that point of drawing is to please me. He would continue to scribble and show me just to keep getting my affirmation response. This would never really grow into love or interest in drawing in the long term. 

 Instead, I answered him very differently, thanks to many years of thinking about Kohn’s article. “Wow, you used so many colors in this picture. What did you draw? Why did you choose to draw a _____ here? What else is in the picture? What will you draw next?” 

Giving him my attention and positive encouragement about his artwork was more important than him the message that he should seek my approval. He continued to scribble, talk about what he was making, and be happy with the drawing process. 

That’s it. It’s that simple. It’s a massive change for us and has a huge impact on young children being happy, but it is that simple. 

Try to spend some time really thinking through how you typically answer your little one. Once you are aware of what you are saying, try to make one change a day. Start small, don’t find this stressful; just find ways to talk with them to make them happier kids!

I hope you have enjoyed this series of articles about the five ways to make happier kids.

While the ideas may have sounded a little crazy at first, I hope they give you new ways of looking at how you interact with your little one and how to make small changes that make them and you happier!

If you missed the other articles, check out Part One, Part Two, Part Three, and Part Four.

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