Alternatives to saying ‘good job’

I recently received Here’s What to Say Instead of ‘Good Job’ PDF from my children’s Montessori school and I thought I would share it with you. This printable version was written by Aubrey Hargis who is a Montessori educator and runs the blog Montessori 101 if you are interested. I have only just come across her blog myself.

I remember receiving another printable on the topic ‘praise vs encouragement’ when my eldest was attending the Montessori toddler class for the first time, but I also remember this topic being mentioned at a Montessori parent information night I attended a couple of years ago. Using encouragement instead of praise is something that is recommended at my childrens school and it’s something that I do try to do, but don’t always find easy to do. It takes lots of practice.

In my children’s Montessori toddler classroom, I do sometimes see clapping and cheering from parents and children being asked to smile whilst a parent takes a photo of their child’s finished work. I also hear ‘good job’ or ‘great job’ or ‘good boy or good girl’. I mostly see this with new parents with children under 18 months of age. It can be hard to imagine not doing this ourselves. I am sure I probably said or did some of these things when my eldest first started at her Montessori school. In the toddler classroom, over time I found that as my eldest became more confident in in the prepared environment and with the materials that she didn’t look to me to get approval or praise, she had internal satisfaction, which to her, was enough. I noticed this not just in the classroom environment but at home as well. I always keep in mind that the prepared classroom environment has developmentally appropriate materials and fosters independence for each age group, so I used the same principles for our at home environments.

It’s usually recommended once your child is able to do many of the materials in the toddler classroom for the parents to step back, just a bit to allow their child to move about in the classroom and work with the materials (presuming they know how to use them properly) to allow their child that freedom and independence without the parent hovering over them. It’s amazing to see their confidence grow, especially in that 2-3 years age bracket when they are given that freedom within limits of course. I saw this with my eldest in the toddler classroom, being able to choose any material, work with it, then put it back the way she found it for the next child to use (care of others and care of the environment), now I see my 2 year old son doing this each week that we attend class together, his confidence has grown so much, especially over the last 2 months. He moves about the classroom at 2 years confident and capable.

indoor collage
Simple pasting work. This work my 2 year old chose to work with today.
indoor painting
Watercolour paint work. This is a new material for inside the classroom. Normally painting is just for outside the classroom. This is currently my 2 year old’s favourite material to work with.

What are some examples of what I say at home?

water colou crayons stickers

When one of my children shows me a picture they have made, I may say ‘would you like to tell me about your picture‘?

cutting strawberries

My 4 year old helped me in the kitchen the other day, so rather than saying ‘good job’, I said ‘thank you for helping me to make jam today, I appreciate your help’. 

For a more indepth look at Praise VS Encouragement, here are some Montessori blog links;

This is an interesting article from NAMC Montessori Teacher training Blog regarding the Montessori philosophy: Praise VS Encouragement.  Living Montessori Now Blog has also written and interesting blog post on A Montessori Approach to Praise. If you know of any other links on this topic, please post them in the comments box.

In a few days I will write a post on tips to foster independence in the home for 0-3 year age group and what the child can do at home 3-6 year age group.



3 thoughts on “Alternatives to saying ‘good job’

  1. A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook this week about this too. As a teacher, I also practice better ways to encourage a student, or to be more specific about their work rather than saying, “Good work”, as that does not really specify what it is that they did well. I like to point out their creativity, interesting ways of solving a problem, their new approach to a project, their dedication to something, etc, etc. This is much more valuable and meaningful to a child. I also like the open-ended options, in which you are giving a child a chance to explain or describe their thought process while completing a task.

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