Complimenting Your Kids on a Job Well Done

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10 Sep 2013

kid cookingAs we finished Rosh Hashana and are moving on to Yom Kippur and Succot, we need our kids help more than ever.  It feels as if I have been cooking and cleaning around the clock. Thank Goodness my husband and my kids build and decorate the Sukkah. That is one thing that I don’t have to worry about.

In many of my articles that I have posted here, I have spoken about how to engage our kid’s cooperation, help them to listen and do their chores.

So, once our kids are peeling potatoes, vacuuming, and cleaning their rooms, is there anything else that we need to do? I think so. Kids and adults work best when their hard work is appreciated. We should try to encourage our kids. One way to do that is to praise them. However, we don’t want to evaluate their work by saying  “good job” and leave it at that.

Praising evaluatively, by using pat phrases

“Nice work,”
“Good boy,”
“You are the best helper”

are actually bad for kids (and not great for adults either). This type of encouragement is hard for people, especially children, to hear. It does not make kids feel good about themselves when they help. It creates pressure and is counterproductive. They might think, “Did I really do a good job or is she just saying that?” and “I am a good boy today, but yesterday she said I was a bad boy- am I really good?”

The best encouragement is when we praise our kids descriptively. That means that when our child acts in positive ways, in this case was helpful, we describe what we see or how we felt.

For example:

“I really appreciate your help. I asked you to peel potatoes and put them in a bowl of cold water. Now they are all ready so I can make a potato kugel. That saved me a lot of time.

“Thanks so much for vacuuming the living room. The room looks fresh and clean. It is all ready for Yom Tov.”

“I appreciate that you played with the baby while I was cooking. I was able to concentrate and cook the roast, meatballs, and kugel. That was very helpful.”

It seems like it takes a lot of effort and a lot of words to praise descriptively. Most parents would rather bypass this type of praise. Jenny Krainess, of the Nurtured Heart Approach, feels that we expend so much energy and words on telling our kids about all the “bad” things they do, we should at least spend the same amount of time on encouraging them and letting them know about all the good they do.

Better yet, forget about the times that they misbehave and just focus on their positive acts. If we are able to do that then we will have less misbehavior and more positive behavior overall.

Adina Soclof, MS. CCC-SLP, works as a Parent Educator for Bellefaire Jewish Children’s Bureau facilitating How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk workshops as well as workshops based on Siblings Without Rivalry. Adina also runs

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.