72 Ways to Compliment a Child (Instead of saying “good job”)

Running out of ways to compliment your kid?  If you’re stumped beyond “good job” and “you’re so smart,” these will help.

WOW! Of all the child behavior tips, praise is often the least understood. This gives you a simple 2-step process that you can use at home to encourage your child to develop positive character traits. These ideas use positive discipline that’s perfect for parents, moms or even teachers in the classroom. Also includes a free printable that you can use for child behavior management.

“Is this good, Mrs. Crohn?”

I’m volunteering in my daughter’s fourth grade classroom by teaching art masterpiece. I lean down and look at the picture.

“Oooh, you used a bright yellow for the sun and a deep purple for the mountains. Great job.”

Uh oh… I said it. Here it comes.

“Mrs. Crohn, what about mine? Is it good?” asked the boy sitting nearby.

“So amazing.”

“What about mine, Mrs. Crohn?”

By the end of class, I am so tired and out of synonyms for the word good.

What I really want is for kids I’m teaching, along with my own children, not to need me saying “good job” for them to continue on with their work.

I want them to be self-motivated and determined to soldier on regardless of what anyone else thinks.

While strong-willed children have the best attitude for this, how do we change the behavior of the other kids?

Easy… we praise the heck out of them.

Ways to Compliment a Child

Not only should praise make the child feel good, it is also one of those secret child behavior tricks that you can use to change how they act.

Take a child’s handwriting for instance.

You can harp on your son each practice session for not extending his lower-case f’s to the top of the line or not making a more perfect circle with his p’s.

And his handwriting will stay exactly the same.

But start picking out what he does well, and watch out.

“Wow, I see how you made a perfectly straight line on that uppercase E,” or
“Nice work creating circular lower part of the b.”

Find fine points like this each time you look at his handwriting and see how the care and time he takes with his writing start to increase.

Why is this?

FYI: This post contains affiliate links to products I love and recommend.  It costs you nothing extra if you purchase through my link, but I may get a small commission. 

According to the book, How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk, “the whole world will tell [our children] what’s wrong with them – loud and often. Our job is to let children know what’s right with them.”
Telling kids what they do right will make them want to improve on their own.

How to think of encouraging words for children

There are two parts to really good praise:

1. Describe the behavior

When you describe, you are not passing judgment or evaluating. You’re simply noticing out loud what the child did.

Here’s how this might sound:

  • “I see you sitting in your chair with your eyes on the person speaking in the front of the room”
  • “The floor of your bedroom is completely clear of toys and I can see the care you took cleaning off your dresser.”
  • “You drew a jagged line here in a bright red color and a loopy line up here with a pretty blue.”

Taking this care to describe the action means loads to your child.

No “good job” needed.

2. Offer a one-word summary

Once you practice with describing, start adding one-word summaries to your praise.

You still describe the specific action, but now you are telling your child something about herself that she may not have known.

It becomes a “touchstone” that she can return to whenever she feels discouraged or doubtful of her abilities.

A simple way to build her self-esteem.

But what in the world do you say?

Imagine your child has cleaned off all the counters in the kitchen without being asked. You can say:

“I see all the dirty plates are in the dishwasher and the counters don’t have a single crumb on them. That took a lot of initiative.”

Your child may ask you what initiative means and if so, simply tell her.

Now, say your child brought home a report card with all A’s. Instead of “You’re so smart”, you can say:

“Wow. I see a lot of A’s on this report card. I’ve watched you do your homework each night and your teacher says that you follow directions well in class and always try to understand hard topics. That shows a lot of determination.”

Neither of these ways to compliment a child evaluate. They don’t force your judgment on them. Instead, you teach your son or daughter a character trait they may not know they have.

Think of how easy our job interviews would have been if we knew our specific character traits and could tick off examples of each.

By praising kids this way, we give them the information they can use lifelong to evaluate their own behavior.

72 Ways to Praise Your Child

Stumped on what else to compliment your child on? I’ve made this printable that you can tack anywhere with a list of positive character traits.

Click here to subscribe

To get the list:

  1. Click on the image above or HERE .
  2. Type in your email address and first name (so I can say yo)
  3. Check your inbox for your free printable!

I know it might look overwhelming, so here’s how to start.

Pick one trait that you know your child has – but maybe doesn’t appreciate – and think of how you can describe specific actions she took that exemplify that behavior.

As you practice, giving encouraging words this way will become easier.

Don’t fall into the “good job” trap like I did. It only encourages kids to seek out your approval rather than looking inward at their own remarkable qualities.

Next time, simply describe what the child did and then sum it up in one positive character trait from this list.

You got this, Mama.

JoAnn Crohn

CEO/Founder at No Guilt Mom
JoAnn Crohn, M. Ed is a parenting educator and life coach who helps moms feel confident in raising empowered, self-sufficient kid while pursuing their own goals & passions.

She’s an accomplished writer, author, podcast host of the No Guilt Mom podcast, and speaker who appears in national media. Work with her personally in Balance VIP

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  1. Hi Jo! The hyperlink for the printable isn’t working for me, it’s probably my cookies. Yes, I’m just spewing It jargon and really have no idea. This is a great summation of the “why.” I’ve heard people say “don’t say ‘good job’ but haven’t explained the why.” Would love the printable!

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