Wednesday, March 4, 2020

When Good Job Goes Bad

Last night along side a packed room of fellow Registered Early Childhood Educators I attended the second workshop in the series Renegade Rules at Childreach Centre "When Good Job Goes Bad". 

We spent the evening reflecting on the role of the language we choose when working with children and does the 'intent' behind the language we choose actually result in the outcome we are thinking it will or is there a better way to approach things like 'praise'. 

Admittedly based on the poll of the room ALL of us regularly resort to the 'good job' form of praise. There is lots of articles on the internet about the benefits of praise so of course we all think we are doing our job by praising! 

Why do we use 'good job'?
  • Habit - it is what we heard growing up so we repeat the behaviour
  • Quick catch all
  • Simple language

What do we really mean when we use 'good job'
  • to praise /encourage
  • positive reinforcement 
  • to connect / build esteem / let them feel noticed

What situations do we tend to use 'good job' more frequently
Typically mundane tasks and new self help skills.
Charity shared that statistically speaking the average child hears 'Good Job' 17 times a day per consistent caregiver ... so that means their teachers or daycare providers during the work day and than 17 times more with each of their parents at home! That is a whole lot of 'praise' going out to young children - but what are the emerging effects of this 'good job' praise?

Here are few slides from the presentation around research over the use of over praising with 'good job'

We reflected a bit on the following statement about who does 'good job' serve than ...
Collectively the consensus was that this could definitely be true in certain circumstances - such as when we praise children with the sole desire to reinforce the behavior we deem 'better' in an effort to alter their behavior when it is not so perfect. So in those incidents the praise is not authentic but rather manipulative because we know most children seek adult approval and therefore will be motivated to get the 'good jobs'. For praise to be effective it needs to not only be authentic but actually meaningful to the person receiving it.
We moved on to discussing the pros and cons of 'good job' forms of praise.

Pros to Good Job
  • When authentic praise gives positive reinforcement
  • Might be one of the positives their hear in a day
  • Helps build relationships, bonds of attachment
  • It is a tool to building trust

Cons to Good Job
  • When 'good job' becomes overused and you do not give a 'good job' for something it can lower children's self esteem because they assume the absense of the 'good job' is its opposite meaning 'bad job'.
  • Over use of 'good job' results in loss of intrinsic motivation to do things
  • Praise becomes addictive where they do something for praise not to learn new skills or engage in meaningful work
  • Overuse removes the meaning / lacks authenticity children quickly discover everyone gets cursory 'good jobs'
  • Hinders independence when children seek outside approval and praise to do anything and without it they just do not do anything
  • Can create environments that are more competitive and result in jealousy
  • Can result in people repeating unwanted behavior immediately after praise in an effort to get praise again when they stop those behaviors. 
  • A 'good job' becomes 'expected' and leads to more empty praise as we attempt to appease their requests for 'did I do a good job' 
  • 'Good job' in itself lacks specificity ... the language is ambiguous to children whose developing language skills do not grasp the actual 'meaning' of what 'good job' is outside of the positive tone it was used with indicating it is a desirable phrase to hear! 

Yet dispite all the 'cons' we listed for 'good job' the reality is that human beings NEED praise - there is so much research out there about the benefits of praise! 

Why change and move away from 'good job' than when it is so ingrained in our culture and practice?
  • language is too general
  • despite our intent it actually results in thoughtless language interactions
  • due to its general over use it lacks authenticity 
So if children need praise but 'good job' is not having the effect we desire than HOW should we be providing that authentic self esteem building praise?
So of the tips provided were:

Focus on the actual behavior and effort  being exhibited verse on their attributes of 'good'.

Focus on the appropriate behavior or skill you want to reinforce

Do not OVER PRAISE! Keep praise authentic so it does not become used for every mundane task or behavior we expect of children.

Pay extra attention to when praising 'effort' as it is a fine line of wanting to encourage them to 'try again' while also not wanting to come off as condescending! 
Remember those teachable moments - do not let praise get in the way of authentic interactions and language development. Sometimes the praise itself can just be really listening and connecting with a child when they are engaged in a new task!

We engaged in reflecting on average daily scenarios where we might 'good job' and brainstormed alternative ideas that focus on the above strategies.

There was so much amazing conversation and reflection that we ran out of time to do the last few reflection pieces so were encouraged to do them at home.

How Does Learning Happen? How do we let children know that they are valued and belong in our spaces, without using empty praise? 
  • making their learning and work visible in the room via photographs, stories and work samples. Creating that authentic documentation to share with their family as well as peers in the program
  • slow down and show interest in their accomplishments in meaningful manners and interaction
  • ensuring they have a voice in the program that they are heard and noticed on regular basis - embracing that truly child led learning pedagogy where we observe and reflect and meet them where they are at.
How will we hold ourselves accountable now that we have this deeper understanding of the way simple language can impact children?
  • Continue to be more reflective in the choice to change from 'good job' to more authentic specific praise.
  • Be mindful in those busy moments
How will we hold OTHERS accountable?
  • Share what I have learned via this blog post
  • Role model the change I want to be in my program
  • Help others see the value in adapting to more authentic praise through the results of using it in the program
The Renegade Rules series is a 3 part series and I am truly looking forward to the next one on No Thank You cause I know I use that phrase a LOT in the program and am interested to see what different language options might be more effective.

You only get one childhood. Lets make sure it is full of magic, nature and discovery!

Live Well, Laugh Often, Love Much
Be Totallyawake4-life

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