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Mommy Mondays: Why the Word “Good” is Bad

by Kimberly on March 17, 2014 · 1 comment

I think it’s time I removed the word “good” from my parenting vocabulary.

As a therapist you learn not to use the word “good” to reinforce a client’s behavior or action as that suggests there is a “bad” way to act or behave. So why don’t I apply that same principle to parenting? Just the other day my 7-year-old son (“J”) and I had the following exchange:

J (reading aloud): “The crowned eagle has a wingspan of 180 cm.”

Me: And “cm” means…?

J: Ummm…calomatria?

Me: Good guess! Actually it stands for “centimeter” which is…

What does this imply? That if J’s guess was “good” then there’s also a guess that’s “bad.” Furthermore, it’s not the guess itself that I was proud of, but what J did, which was to take a risk and think of a creative solution. It did not matter what the solution was, but that he took the action of making a guess.

This also isn’t just an issue related to clinical and parenting skills. I had a conversation with my mother the other week. She had recently finished a workshop on public speaking and one of the major takeaways points was that presenters should never use the phrase “good question” after an audience member asks a question. The rationale is that if you label that question as “good,” it may make other audience members nervous to ask their own questions for fear that their question will be “bad.” (I, of course, cringed in recollection that just the day before I had used that very same “good question” auto-response during a presentation I was giving. Bummer.)

So if using the word “good” is bad, what are alternatives I could have used with my son? I could have said “Nice work taking a guess” or “I like that you tried” or “how creative of you” or any other statement that reinforces the act of taking the guess (the risk-taking, creative behavior), not the guess itself (the product).

What do you think? Should “good” be banned from our parenting vocabulary?


{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Michelle Erfurt March 17, 2014 at 10:16 am

Yes, I have heard about the whole topic of watching what you say with the kids (don’t ask me where, it was a blog post or something I probably saw on Facebook). I’ve heard it not only with using “good” like you describe, but also when you praise your kids… like saying “good boy” when they complete a task. The argument is that your kid might think that they’re a “bad boy” when they don’t accomplish something. You can also go into watching what you say when you greet different children… it made a point that a lot of times when people meet girls, they immediately comment on their “pretty dress” and with boys, it’s often something dealing with strength or something like that. Needless to say, this whole thing has me completely paranoid as I interact with kids at story time. On one hand I wonder if it’s a little bit overboard, and on the other I do think there could be something to it. It’s definitely raised my awareness of what I’m saying as I interact with EVERYONE especially in those every day situations like explaining music therapy to someone, interacting with friends/colleagues, etc, etc.
Michelle Erfurt´s last blog post ..Tips For Facilitating Children’s Groups

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