Family, Kids & Relationships

15 better things to say than “good job” when you want to encourage your child

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One of our biggest jobs as parents is to encourage our kids as they learn to navigate the world. Yes, this means cheering them on, but that can be trickier than it seems. Not all the ways we try to boost our kids’ confidence actually lead to more growth and improvement! 

So what can you say that’s more effective than “good job”? In honor of Make Your Dream Come True Day, here are some unique compliments and positive phrases you can use to support your child to keep learning, trying, and improving every day while also preparing them for the challenges of life—so you can help them make their dreams come true.

Get specific

Phrases like “Good job” can start to sound repetitive, and are too vague to really be effective at boosting a kid’s self esteem. When you praise your child, try to be more specific:

  • “You were concentrating so well.”
  • “Thank you for waiting patiently.”
  • “That was a really kind way to treat a friend.”

Praise actions and efforts

Encouragement based on personality traits (like “You’re so smart”) can backfire, because everyone gets stumped sometimes—so the next time they can’t come up with an answer to a problem right away, they might start to think that they aren’t really so smart after all. Try focusing on actions and efforts instead:

  • “What a creative solution!”
  • “I love how you kept trying.”
  • “I like how you figured out your own way.”
  • “It’s impressive how much thought you put into this.”
  • “I know that wasn’t easy but you did it anyway—awesome!”

Tell them WHY

To make sure your compliments are meaningful, it helps to include the reason why you’re so impressed with what they’ve said or done.

  • “I’m proud of you for trying something new.”
  • “That was a very smart decision.”
  • “That was a brave thing to do.”
  • “Thank you for listening so closely—that really helped things go more smoothly.”

Focus on connection

Sometimes support and encouragement is less about a particular project or event, and more about just letting your child know that you’re here for them—no matter what. Even if things don’t go perfectly, or you’re not sure how they’ll turn out yet, you can boost their confidence with phrases like:

  • “I’ll be thinking of you!”
  • “I’m so happy that you told me.”
  • “I can’t wait to hear more about it!”

It’s not always easy to think of what to say in the moment—so hopefully this list helps inspire some realistic, empowering encouragement that will help your kids reach their amazing potential. As a bonus, saying these kinds of things out loud all the time reminds even adults that everything takes practice, especially parenting!

Joanna Eng is a staff writer and digital content specialist at ParentsTogether. She lives with her wife and two kids in New York, where she loves to hike, try new foods, and check out way too many books from the library.