Alfie Kohn says “Bad job” to saying “Good job” – 5 strategies to CLEAR the way.



Alfie Kohn, in his article titled Five Reasons to Stop Saying “Good Job!”, talks about the pitfalls of saying the words “Good job” to children citing examples that may create as he calls them “praise junkies” among other things. He gives concrete ways to use alternatives to saying the two most overused words that most english speaking children hear.

My take on all this is the fact that there is a need, in school and at home, of engaging our kids more. The more we dismiss them, the more they become complacent and only do the things they are asked because they are after a grade, positive (in an oxymoron-ish kind of way) reinforcement, a pat on the back, or to hear the words “Good job!”.


Here are 5 CLEAR strategies whereby we can engage young people:

1. Conversate. Ask them some questions about the project, activity or task that they performed.

2. Learn. What did you learn? An easy question that can lead to more of number 1.

3. Effortitfy. (I’m a certifiable #wordMangler) Focus on the effort that they put into it. Try saying “You put in some great effort into that …..” – Carol Dweck has a ton to say on how mindset affects success. To put it simply, focus on the process not the product!

4. Awareness. Be aware of the impact your words can have on a young person. Pause and reflect before speaking.

5. Reflection. Just reflect on the the facts. Some achievements are just that, plain facts. You don’t need to extol the virtues of a child being able to ride their bike. Just saying “You did it” or “You are riding your bike” is reflection enough of their achievement. Then tell them the story of how you first learned how to ride your bike.


Please share some of the strategies you would use. How would you go about not saying “Good job” anymore?

Adnan Iftekhar


  1. I praise when needed, however my standards are high so they really know when I was impressed. Most of the time I just say Thank you.

  2. Chris Sumner

    I give specific feedback about what had improved from previous work. Being an Art teacher I am in a very potent position to offer personalized feedback from kindergarten to 5 th grade with all of my kids. No other teacher gets to know them as well. I’m in 2 buildings and have 532 students. By the time I retire I conservatively estimate I will have taught around 15,000 kids….