If you are trying to break the habit of hollow, unthinking praise, and the habit of manipulative praise, and turn it into something more worthwhile, these 25 alternatives to saying “good job” might help get you on a better parenting path.
Recently I shared some thoughts on praise and manipulation.
In that post I shared some brutal truths about how I parent, and some ideas about how I would like to parent. I shared my goal to break the habit of hollow, unthinking praise, and the habit of manipulative praise, and turn it into something more worthwhile.
But breaking a habit is not easy, so I’m falling back on my tried and true idea and arming myself with some ‘positive first responses‘. I’m hoping that if I’ve already thought about something better to say than “good job” then I will be more likely to remember it and use it when the time comes.
So I’ve put together a list of 25 alternatives to “good job” and given myself some ideas of when to use them.
More parenting inspiration…
What to Say Instead – Alternatives to “Good Job”
Sometimes, when you are on the spot, it can be hard to think of the ‘right’ thing to say. This list of things you can say instead of ‘Good Job” is not perfect, but it might help you get on the right track, and if you have these ideas in the back of your mind, it might help you find the right words in the moment.
- Thank you for helping with…
- It makes mornings/dinner/outings easier when you…. thank you
- I really appreciate it when you…
- Thank you for doing that… it means I/we can now…
- We did it together.
- Wow! You made a building/drawing/etc.
- You did it on your own.
- You did x and then y and worked it out.
- You used lots of red paint/blocks/tape/etc.
- You made it really big/small/colourful/complicated/etc.
- That took you a long time, and you did it!
- How did you do that?
- You did X, what will you do now?
- Can you tell me about it?
- What is your favourite part?
- How did you think of that?
- I really enjoy doing this with you.
- I love watching you create/help your sister/play soccer/ etc.
- I’m so proud to be your mum, every day, no matter what.
- Look how happy your friend is when you share/help/smile/etc.
- You kept going, even when it was hard.
- You look so pleased to have done that!
- You made X feel so pleased when you did that.
- It makes you feel good when you do X.
- Say nothing – just smile.
Changing this habit and taking the time to think of something better to say can be hard, and it does take a little more time and effort, but that is the point. It is next to meaningless if we just let rote praise spew out of our mouths without thinking.
Only say something when you mean it, then you won’t notice the time and effort it takes to tell your child how you feel, how excited, or how thankful you are because it will be genuine.
Free Printable Poster – 25 Ways to Encourage.
It can be hard to break a habit, and when you are in the moment with your kids, it can be even harder to think up something to say. So I made a printable poster with these alternative encouraging phrases, so I can stick it on my fridge and practice a few every time I walk past.
At first they are going to sound a bit stilted and not that genuine, but the more you use them, the more they will become second nature, and the more you will adapt them to be more ‘you’, until you don’t need the list at all, because you’ve broken the habit of hollow praise!
You can download this printable poster of 25 ways to encourage here.
This printable is an A4 sized pdf file, you will need a pdf reader such as adobe acrobat to open it. If you are printing on US ‘letter sized’ paper be sure to select ‘fit’ or ‘shrink to fit’ from your printer options.
Please remember that the printables at picklebums.com are for personal use only, you may not sell, share, or link directly to these files.
Are you working on breaking a not so great parenting habit?
I’d love to hear about your parenting struggles, and your parenting wins!
If you’d like to share, leave a comment below, or feel free to send me an email any time.
This post was originally published in July 2014, and updated in 2020.
Read the comments or scroll down to add your own:
Tammi @Momma's Meals says
I need this list! Thank you for sharing, I’m hanging it on my fridge ASAP!
Carrie Willard says
I LOVE this and thanks so much for the phrase “hollow praise”. It nails why I feel uncomfortable when I hear people “good job”-ing all over the place. Yes, it sounds hollow and even manipulative. Great list, I shared with my peeps today.
I appreciate the alternatives to saying “good job.” Overpraise is the seems to be all that parents utter these days. I also think tone is important. If we have a constant excited tone while talking to our kids it will most likely lead to overstimulation. Most of the time, I try to keep my tone flat and “matter of fact.” That keeps them calm and ready to take on whatever comes our way.
So good to find this Kate, and thanks for going to the trouble of ‘putting it out there’. I’m using it for my Parent’s Meetings (I’m a Montessori Preschool teacher) as we always end up talking about ‘the language of encouragement’ as opposed to “hollow” praising . Like Ben, I think that tone is complimentary in our dialogue with children as well.
Love your use of colour….gives a happy feel to it!!
You have a wonderful insight into relationships. Thank you for a great post.
Kristina Daugherty says
These are amazing! Thank you for putting these together! I love using something other than “good job”! My go to is “way to go”, but now I have so many more options, thank you!
Emily Margaret says
As a former teacher, I absolutely love this post!!! I especially love how you categorize the praises into different categories. The question, in particular, is a great idea to extend thinking.
I also always try to focus praise on how my little one grows and learns, not how smart/ clever he is. For example, instead of “You’re so clever” “I love how you corrected your mistake! Great problem solving!!”
Thank you! Doing art with great grandkids via video chat is interesting. I always feel limited saying “good job” every time .Thanks for the suggestions.