Alternatives to “Good Job”

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Today is Simone Davis’ last post in the #30daystoMontessori challenge Her other posts have been some of the most inspirational during this challenge, and if you missed them I’ll list them at the bottom of this post!

Today, Simone is tackling a phrase that I admittedly catch myself saying often, so I hope this challenge is as essential for you as it is for me!

Why You Should Find Alternatives to Saying "Good Job" #30daystoMontessori challenge

Day 26: Find alternatives to saying “Good job

 The problem

 It has been shown that kids who are over-praised are actually less confident and often less self motivated. We are using phrases like “good job’, “good girl/boy” way too often these days. I don’t know if it’s just laziness or if we think it is good parenting. Unfortunately it places a judgement on your child – even if positive – and stops the child assessing for themselves if something is good or not.

The challenge

 Montessori teachers who would like to give feedback prefer to give descriptive praise or encouragement.

Descriptive praise

If you simply describe what your child has done, this takes away the evaluative component, gives more information to the child, and uses much more interesting language.

For example:

  • “You poured your water in your glass without spilling a drop”
  • “You look very pleased with yourself”
  • “You put back the work on the shelf ready for the next person. Now that’s what I call thoughtful.”
  1. Provide encouragement

Focus on the effort rather than the result. This is great for older children.

For example, “You worked really hard to prepare your report.”

So for half an hour today, your challenge is to avoid staying “good job” and try either descriptive praise or encouragement.


  1. To stop over-praise (ie, too much praise)
  2. To allow the child to judge for themselves what they have done (without a subjective comment from us)
  3. To allow the child to develop their own sense of self and develop their own inner motivation
  4. To build the child’s own self esteem, self direction and self discipline

Why You should find Alternatives to Saying "Good Job" - part of the #30daystoMontessori Challenge

Further reading

For those wanting to read more on this:

  1. Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”, by Alfie Kohn
  2. How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk, Faber & Mazlich (Chapter 5)

 Any questions or comments, please let me know. And don’t forget to let us know how you go, just use the #30daystoMontessori hashtag to inspire others.

simone davies

Simone Davies loves putting Montessori into practice. She is a qualified 0-3 Montessori teacher through the Association Montessori Internationale (AMI) and mother of two children who attended Montessori preschool and primary school. She is from Australia and lives in the Netherlands where she runs a Montessori playgroup for babies, toddlers and preschoolers in Amsterdam.

To read her other posts in the #30daystoMontessori series, check out:

challenge #19 for #30daystoMontessori challenge

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  1. This is such a good article! I over praise, or I praise when it isn’t deserved. My 3 yr old challenged me on this over the summer. He was batting and I said, “Great hit.” to a pitch that he barely hit. He threw his bat down and yelled at me, “No, don’t say that! It was not even a good hit.”
    But that’s something adults tend to do- praise mediocrity in attempt to encourage trying. I should have said nothing, or if I had to butt in I could have said, “I think you’ll hit it it far next time.”

    1. It’s such a hard balance to strike! I’ve found my best success with praising effort, rather than results, but it’s just like you said, sometimes it’s best to just be silent, and let their own inner dialogue narrate the event.

  2. it’s such a great article but unfortunately, I don’t have anyone left to say “good job”. I feel that I only have my self wherever I go, I have cried a lot recently and I don’t know why. It feels like the tears will come anytime. I think I need to do something to change this situation but I don’t know what to do. Even when I read your article, it makes me cry, too. (I’m sorry although it’s really good)

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