New Mama Musings

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

The Good Jobbing of Henry

My husband and I have been trying to avoid saying "Good job!" to Henry, because, as Alfie Kohn contends in his essay Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!":

What kids...need is unconditional support, love with no strings attached. That’s not just different from praise – it’s the opposite of praise. "Good job!" is conditional. It means we’re offering attention and acknowledgement and approval for...doing things that please us.

It's a tough habit to break, but we've been working on it. However, getting others on board isn't as easy. Getting my stepdaughter -- who has Down syndrome -- on board is near impossible.

Maddy adores her little brother (and he loves her, too). She naturally wants to praise him for every little thing -- drinking, eating, standing. A definite Kohn no-no.

We've tried to explain to her that we're not saying "Good job!" to Henry. This is how it's been going:

A few weeks ago Henry was in his high chair, drinking out of a straw, when I overheard Maddy tell him, "Good job!" I gently reminded her about our "rule."

Two minutes later Henry took another sip and Maddy said, "Good job, buddy!"

"Maddy, we're not saying 'good job' to Henry, remember?" I said.

She gave me an exasperated look and declared, "I say, 'Good job, buddy.'"

Then last week Henry, who is just nanoseconds away from walking, was doing some unassisted standing. Maddy saw him and did the whole "Good job!" thing, so I gave her a very gentle reminder.

She asked me what she should say instead, and thinking that giving her something to say would be more effective than telling her not to say anything, I responded, "Well, you can just say what he's doing, like, 'Henry, you're standing up!'"

A few minutes later Henry was at it again and I heard:

"Henry, you're standing up!" Pause. "Good job!"


  • I found your blog while surfing for all things DS tonight. Your stepdaughter is beautiful, and your little one is very cute.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10:31 PM  

  • Kay, this is one of the funniest (in a cute-funny way) posts I've read in a long time. I don't know why it struck me like it did, but I was laughing out loud! How precious. And by the way, I had never heard or nor thought about ALLL of the saying "good job!" that we do around here. Thanks for the food for thought.

    By Anonymous allie, at 12:03 AM  

  • I've had Alfie Kohn books on my list to read for some time, and this will hopefully push me to do it. I am totally against saying "good girl", because I don't want my daughter's sense of WHO SHE IS to be tied to WHAT SHE DOES. But I fear I jumped out of the kettle and into the fire by substituting "good job" for "good girl". Sigh. This parenting thing is hard.

    By Anonymous S, at 4:18 PM  

  • Ha ha - too funny! I'm going to have to wean myself off "good job!" before we have kids; I find myself saying it to our nephews all the time!

    By Blogger SkylarKD, at 1:39 PM  

  • I'm on the UP list and just got around to reading your blog entry. I really loved your 'punchline', how hilarious! Good luck with getting her to calm down on the praise though, I don't envy your job! I wrote a little blog piece about UP a while ago (in October I think?) and it's funny what people want to know about it. If only it was a prerequisite for all parents...or we could just download it 'Matrix-style' straight into our heads for easy access. I think the earlier you start the easier it is. I hear others praising now and think "How exhausting!". For them AND the child. ;o)

    Nice to 'meet' you.

    Cheers, Cass

    By Blogger casso, at 6:39 PM  

  • That is so cute. I can imagine her frustration. Hi, I just came over from the UP group--I just joined too. Haven't posted yet though.

    By Anonymous Lolly, at 2:22 AM  

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