"Good girl, you did it!" "Wow, you are such a good boy for eating all your veggies!" Does this sound familiar? Did your parents say this to you or do you say this to your child?
While phrases such as these are usually said with good intention, they carry a certain message that might not have the best effect on children. Let's unpack this a bit further:
We typically praise children with these "Good girl" or "Good boy" phrases when they have done something we are proud of or approve of. These phrases then communicate to the child that they are "good" when they complete their homework, eat their veggies or clean up after themselves. It also communicates to the child that emphasis is put on the results of their effort and not necessarily on their input while doing the activity.
What if they do not finish all their veggies or struggle to complete their homework? Are they still a good girl or good boy? Do they still win your praise and approval? Do you notice how phrases such as these create really clear expectations of a child: If you complete a task and achieve a result, I (your parent) approve of you; if you don't, then you do not get my approval or my praise.
What if we could swop "Good girl" and "good boy" with "Wow, I am so proud of how hard you focused when you were working on your homework!" or "I know it is hard to finish all your veggies, and I see you tried your best, which is good enough!" or "Thank you for being responsible and cleaning up after yourself, that is such a wonderful trait to have." These phrases communicate to your child that you acknowledge the process and their effort and that they have your approval and praise regardless of whether they finish the task and whether they finished it with perfection or not.
Do you need some support with this as a parent? That's understandable! Unlearning patterns that we have been used to all our lives takes time. Reach out to me for a coaching session on this.