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…?
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?