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Five Alternative Ways to Say "Well Done!"

By Maddie Thiele, Former Teacher - Burnley/South Yarra

As parents and educators, we would like the best for our children. We would like them to be confident learners, and to feel good about themselves when they are learning. We often find ourselves saying, “Good job!” and “Well done!” to motivate our little ones to keep learning. But our experience reveals that the following alternatives have a much stronger benefit in helping your child discover the world and the impact they have, than simply saying “good job!”

Here are five alternative ways of saying “good girl/boy” and “well done”:

1. Your child packs away their instrument in their Mini Maestros class without your instruction. Rather than simply saying, “Good girl,” be specific. I.e. “Great packing away. You did it by yourself today.” Soon enough, your child will be saying, “I did it!” and will be able to feel a sense of self-achievement, without relying on your praise.

2. Your child shows you a drawing they have done. Describe back to them what you see, and ask them to justify their choices. E.g. “I see you drew a purple tree, why did you decide to make it purple?” Your child will think about their choices, which will encourage them to make autonomous creative decisions in future.

3. Your 2 year old loves jumping, but can’t quite lift both feet off the floor at the same time yet. Tell them that you saw how hard they had to work to practise their jumps. “You are working so hard to get your feet off the floor! Soon you’ll be doing very big jumps!” This not only helps them understand the mechanics of jumping, but also acknowledges that they are capable of achieving their goal.

4. Use an opportunity where you would normally give praise to extend the child’s vocabulary. E.g. “Your hands were clapping delicately and gracefully today.”

5. Point out how your child’s actions affect others. When your child gives you a cuddle, say, “When you cuddle me, it makes me feel special and it’s a nice way to show me that you love me.” Or if your child shares their instrument with another child, say, “Toby is smiling – it looks like he is happy that you shared your tambourine with him.”

For further reading, see:

Alfie Kohn’s article, ‘Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!” from Young Children, September 2001.

Rebecca English’s article, ‘How to discipline your children without rewards or punishment’ from The Conversation, March 2015.

By Maddie Thiele. Former Mini Maestros Business Development Officer and Teacher – Burnley/South Yarra

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