Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Great Job" and Other Phrases Crippling Our Kids

I realize I have a horrendous habit of giving empty feedback to others. You might say I’m the big bright “Great Job!” sticker on the top of the test. I’ll give you a brief pick-me-up but am useless in terms of growth.
I often play riveting games of chance with my son. Games like Candyland and Trouble. He’ll roll a six and I’m always there with an “Awesome job buddy!” At least I used to be. No longer am I offering praise based on acts of luck, even when his needy eyes fall on me, seeking approval. I’ve taken the same stance as a teacher. I do my best to avoid an isolated “Great job” or “You’re awesome!”

People successful in relationship also succeed as encouragers. But it seems today we have a misconception of encouragement. We often compliment, thinking we’re offering encouragement. For example, the symbol of today’s society is the participation trophy.

We’re taught to “encourage one another and build each other up,” (1 Thessalonians 5:11). Some translations of this same verse use the word edify which means to instruct or benefit. How did our acts of encouragement and building get confused with complimenting? Now we’ve opened up the runway for Entitlement to make its landing. Unfortunately Entitlement’s luggage, filled with perseverance and grit, has been lost somewhere on the other side of the world.  

“Great Job!”
The worst thing you could can say to a growing mind.
“Great Job!”
Two words said repeatedly as everyone receives a trophy for participation.
Giving someone undeserved recognition is a damaging act.

The receiver of this message is left to draw their own conclusions.
    “Man I’m awesome!”
    “Wow, people like me.”
    “Life’s all about luck, and boy do I have it today.”
    “I’ve arrived!”
 
Ephesians 4:29 says, ”Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.”
The phrase “Great job” does not benefit the receiver of these words unless it is followed by an affirmation, specific to the task. Like: Great job trying repeatedly until you figured it out. Great job using your resources to help you problem solve.
Said in isolation, any compliment is not helpful for building others up according to their needs. When I think of building I think of constructing something on a strong foundation. “Great job” lacks any foundation.

Much research on education points to feedback as being one of the most influential factors of student learning. This aligns with Proverbs 18:21, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.”

May our words benefit those around us as we provide affirmation specific to their trials and accomplishments!

If you're looking for more examples of my faulty responses to students, check out "Responding to Distractions: Shhh, Not Now!"