18 In Mindful Parenting/ Parenting Solutions

A Better Way to Say “Good Job” to Your Kids

If you have been reading the news recently, you’ve probably seen something about how praising children too much or in the wrong way can lead to their inability to handle failure, less motivation, and even to an inflated sense of self (or worse narcissism).

If you are like me, you still find yourself saying: Good job!! 

It turns out that saying “good job”, isn’t necessarily a bad way to praise, but there are even better ways to praise — a way that can build your child’s internal motivation to work hard and succeed.

a better way to praise and encourage

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A Better Way: Encourage Your Child With Gestures

In one study researchers looked at how kindergarteners were praised. Here is what they found:

  • Children who were “trait” praised (e.g. you are a good drawer) were the least motivated on a task and showed less enjoyment for the task.
  • Children who were praised for their effort (e.g. you worked hard on that drawing) or given ambiguous praise (e.g. Wow! or High-Five) showed higher task enjoyment and persistence, even after task errors.

In other words, ambiguous praise worked just as well as praising a child’s effort.

Children attributed a high-five or a “Wow!” to their hard work.

And not only that but the children who felt the most positive about themselves and their drawings were the ones who received the gestural praises — the thumbs up or the high five.

how to praise your kid

Related: Help Your Kid Gain True Confidence and Internal Motivation

This makes sense. When you see your child finally persevere or accomplish something you are happy for them and you want to celebrate. Saying “High-Five” and holding up your hand with a big smile are signs of genuine pride and encouragement.

Gestural praise helps us celebrate the moment with them.

This is a little different than offering passive praise, which makes children realize we have recognized their work.

With an enthusiastic high five, we are joining them in their success instead of simply recognizing it.


When we do this — we aren’t really praising our kids, we are encouraging them. It is a subtle, but important difference. It turns out that the best way to encourage our kids isn’t what we say to them, but instead it was we do with them.


So, next time your child accomplishes something, join in the fun and give them a big high five!!! 

Add this tool to your parenting toolbox and pull it out whenever you want to encourage your child.


Books On Growth Mindset, Perseverance, and Believing in Yourself

If you have followed my blog for a while, you know I love using books to teach children about emotions, behaviors, and other life lessons.

Here are some of our favorite books about having belief in yourself, perseverance, and a growth mindset.


I Can't Do That, YET: Growth MindsetI Can’t Do That, YET: Growth MindsetThe Girl Who Never Made MistakesThe Girl Who Never Made MistakesThe Most Magnificent ThingThe Most Magnificent ThingThe Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple GrandinThe Girl Who Thought in Pictures: The Story of Dr. Temple GrandinThe Book of MistakesThe Book of MistakesAfter the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again)Mistakes that Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to BeMistakes that Worked: 40 Familiar Inventions & How They Came to BeThe Thing Lou Couldn't DoThe Thing Lou Couldn’t DoBeautiful Oops!Beautiful Oops!Peter Reynolds Creatrilogy Box Set (Dot, Ish, Sky Color)Peter Reynolds Creatrilogy Box Set (Dot, Ish, Sky Color)Whistle for WillieWhistle for WillieUnstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through LifeUnstoppable Me!: 10 Ways to Soar Through LifeRosie Revere's Big Project Book for Bold EngineersRosie Revere’s Big Project Book for Bold Engineers

Be a parent who knows how to effectively encourage your child and it's not just about praising hard work. A simple tip from child development research.



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  • Creatively Homespun
    March 30, 2015 at 10:05 am

    Love this. We a are BIG High Five Family. lol Thanks for sharing at the Marvelous Monday Link up!

  • Christina
    March 30, 2015 at 10:28 am

    I love this! High fives are awesome! 🙂

  • Catherine Holt
    March 31, 2015 at 6:13 am

    Love it. My daughter always giggles when given a high five.

    Thanks for linking up to Marvelous Monday on Smart Party Planning.

  • Keri
    March 31, 2015 at 10:17 am

    Cool. I never though about different kinds of praise having a different effect. Time for more high fives!

  • Janine Halloran
    March 31, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    We use thumbs up and high fives all the time!

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      April 2, 2015 at 10:45 am

      Good! We do too, I think it is a natural thing and it’s good to know they attribute it their effort!

  • How to Build Up Your Child - Busy Moms Helper
    April 1, 2015 at 8:27 am

    […] For more on how to build up your child come on over to Nurture and Thrive for The POWER of a High 5! […]

  • Let kids be kids
    April 1, 2015 at 9:00 am

    I’d not thought about it before but I think this is true, when I give my children a high 5 for praise, the smiles on their faces are much greater than when I just say the picture is good.
    Thanks for linking #LetKidsBeKids

    • nurtureandthriveblog
      April 2, 2015 at 10:44 am

      I know! I was so excited when I found out about this research bc the same is true in our house.

  • Steph @ Steph in Thyme
    April 1, 2015 at 10:07 am

    What a great article, I never thought about this before! Thanks for the sharing thorough research and insight!

  • Elizabeth
    April 2, 2015 at 9:13 am

    So glad we’ve crossed paths! So glad you joined us for Tuesday Talk~

    Home of “Tuesday Talk” and “Pincrazy Thursday”

  • Debi @ Surroundings by Debi
    April 2, 2015 at 6:39 pm

    My grandchildren love high fives! I will have to give them even more! It was great to see you at the Thursday Favorite Things Blog Hop!

  • Samantha @ Stir the Wonder
    April 5, 2015 at 6:09 pm

    We are always giving high fives in our house! Thanks for linking up at the Thoughtful Spot Weekly Blog Hop! We hope you join us again next week!

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