Thursday, April 23, 2020

Should we or Shouldn't we say, Good Job?

As we are now over a month into our “new normal,” I hope you and your children have all been able to enjoy time together and find a sense of peace amidst so much change! While we are all finding our footing, I have been so encouraged seeing friends and family shed old habits that were no longer serving them, and trying to use this time to build new, more positive patterns in their life.

I am sure being at home is looking quite different for each and every one of us. However, while we are going about our days separately, I find comfort in knowing we are all going through this intense change as one. As I was thinking about our collective realignment, an idea sparked for a habit we can all try to let go of together. Specifically, one very popular phrase we can all try to let go of together.

As many of you are familiar with childcare centres, schools and parks, there is one thing you will consistently hear ring out above the rest: “Good job!” What a positive phrase... it couldn’t possibly be bad, could it? Well, it’s complicated! Of course, this is almost always stated with nothing but the best of intentions. That being said, there are so many more constructive ways we can appreciate a child’s contribution or achievement. 

In my studies, when I first heard this notion, I was confused! What is wrong with saying good job? The short answer is this: telling a child "good job” suggests that we are judging the child, rather than empowering them to reflect upon their own efforts. It tells the children in our lives to look for outside approval, versus allowing them to value their own thoughts and ideas.

Maria Montessori said, “We must help the child to act for himself, will for himself, think for himself; this is the art of those who aspire to serve the spirit.” (Education for a New World)

Our ultimate goal is always for the child to learn and grow for themselves, not because we would like them to. So, while we are all considering what habits we want to leave behind, and what habits we want to take forward with us in this brave new world, I think one of the best ones we can shed is the overuse of the uninspiring phrase, “good job!”

Here are some more creative ways to encourage and show interest in your child’s work:

“You did it!”

“How did that feel?” 

“I love the colors you’ve chosen.”

“What do you like best about your work?”

“That was really helpful!”

“Tell me about your picture.”

“Your brother looked so happy when you read him that book.”

“You tidied up everything so nice and neat.”

“It was hard, and you stuck with it!”

If you are feeling stuck in the “good job” hamster wheel, it’s a great start to find one specific thing your child did, and comment on that. Show your appreciation for how your child helped and how it made you feel. While “good job,” can be a kind thing to say, it gives your child very little to walk away with. So let’s all strive to break this habit, and find new ways to light a fire for all the children in our lives. 

“The secret of good teaching is to regard the child’s intelligence as a fertile field in which seeds may be sown, to grow under the heat of flaming imagination.  Our aim therefore is not merely to make the child understand, and still less to force him to memorize, but so to touch his imagination as to enthuse him to his inmost core.” - Maria Montessori (To Educate the Human Potential)

Happy spring to all of my MTM friends, big and small. I cannot wait until we get to work together again — hopefully soon!   ~ Ms. Janie

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