Specific Praise: Why “Wonderful” and “Good Job” Doesn’t Teach

Specific Praise: Why “Wonderful” and “Good Job” Doesn’t Teach

As a parent, you likely quickly learned that ignoring a behavior or redirecting your young child often helps to reduce undesirable behavior. Conversely, praising a behavior helps children to learn to repeat it. Your child wants to please you and follow your lead. However, using “wonderful”, “great”, “nice”, “good”, “excellent” over and over doesn’t let the child know exactly what you liked.

Your child picks up a toy and throws it into a pillow on the couch. You tell him or her to put it in the toy box. You leave the area and return a few minutes later to find the child has put away the toy and is now playing with a train on the floor. “Good job,” you say to praise the child for putting away the toy. However, it is a few minutes later and the child might think you mean to congratulate his use of the train. Use specific language: “You did a nice job by putting away the toy like I asked.” Now the child understands the reinforcement was for doing what was asked and will be more likely to follow the direction in the future.

Listen to yourself and see how you can alter your “atta boy” to let the child know exactly what you like. Your child will know how to please you.


Developed by Suzanne Gellens for the Southern Early Childhood Association

Copyright © 2018 Southern Early Childhood Association, All rights reserved.

Meet our Teaching Staff: Jessie Robinson

Hi, I am Jessie Robinson.

I came to Middle Earth in July, 2016 as the Lead Teacher in the Rangers classroom. Each week I map out a Lesson Plan loaded with daily Yoga moves, playful books for growing vocabulary and lots of one on one interactions. The young Toddlers in my room delight me with their daily milestone accomplishments. I teach them to comfort each other when one of their friends are sad and encourage their new words. The Toddlers amaze me and bring me great joy. After an engaging day at Middle Earth I like to read outside or play with my dog, Rosco.

I really love summer time. My summers are filled with adventures around lakes, streams and rolling hills. On the weekend you may find me under a tree reading a novel and imagining myself as one of the characters. Winter is my least favorite season.

I surround myself with close friends that are song writers and musicians. Routinely in the spring, summer and fall we load up the trucks with our kayaks and camping gear and head to music festivals. My hobbies have changed from childhood memories of sports and cheerleading to string bands, bluegrass and an intense love for nature.

I earned my Certificate of Mastery in Early Care from Rose State and I am currently working on my associate Degree. Eventually, I would like to operate my own in-home day care.

In years to come you may find me in the country on a warm summer day, by a river reading a book as I rest in a hammock. I am pretty laid back.

February Education Spotlight

The Complex Lives of Babies
By Emily Deruy

The idea that new babies are empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge
of the world around them doesn’t sound unreasonable. With their unfocused
eyes and wrinkly skin, tiny humans sometimes look more like amoebas than
complex beings.

Yet scientists have built a body of evidence, particularly over the last three
decades, that suggests this is patently untrue. “When kids are born, they’re
already little scientists exploring the world,” said the filmmaker Estela Renner
via a video conference from Brazil before a recent screening of her new documentary
The Beginning of Life (streaming on Netflix) at the World Bank in
Washington, D.C.

That’s something Renner, a Brazilian mother of three, discovered as she spoke
with early-childhood experts and parents in nine countries around the world
about the impact a child’s environment in the first few years of life has on not
only her physical development, but her cognitive, social, and emotional development,
too. “I didn’t know that kids were not blank slates,” she said. “It
changed the way I look at babies.” If more people recognized that fact, the way
communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life
might be different.

Exquisitely shot and hopeful-without-being-sugary, the film focuses on the day
-to-day lives of babies and parents and on the opportunities for learning in
even the most mundane activities. “Babies are the best learning machines in
the universe,” Alison Gopnik, a psychology professor who has spent decades
studying child development, said in the documentary. “They’re the world’s
original inventors,” echoed Patricia Kuhl, the co-director of the University of
Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences.

Meet our Teaching Staff: Brendan Agnew

Who am I?

My name is Brendan Agnew. I’m the lead teacher in the Discoverers preschool (3-4 year-old) classroom, and I have been working at Middle Earth since June of 2009. My wife, Mabry, also works at Middle Earth, in the Adventurers mobile infant room, and our daughter is in Ms. Morgan’s Wanderer’s room. We’ve been a Middle Earth family most of our lives, as not only did Ms. Mabry and I both attend as children, but so did my sister, Bronwyn.

I come from a family of teachers (my sister, my mom, her mother, and my paternal grandparents) and believe that quality education is integral to building a better future for our children.

What are my hobbies?

I enjoy reading, both to myself and to the children, and gravitate toward “genre” fiction (fantasy, sci-fi, horror, etc.) for my own enjoyment, though I also have a love of history – particularly that of medieval Western Europe. I’m a passionate film lover, and enjoy writing about movies almost as much as watching them, as well as discussing them on podcasts. I also love taking my greyhound, Alistair, for 5k runs when the weather is nice. . . Or when it’s not particularly nice, and he’s just been cooped up too long.

In the community, I’ve been active in the Norman Medieval Faire since my teenage years, and ran the Arthurian Order of Avalon performance and education group (the one responsible for the Human Chessboard) for several years before stepping down to start our family.

What is my education?

Following high school, I initially attended the University of Oklahoma, but soon found out that my chosen major wasn’t actually what I wanted. After switching to full time work to help support Ms. Mabry as she finished graduate school, and discovering my passion for Early Childhood Education here at Middle Earth, I began taking classes in my current field at Oklahoma City Community College. I currently hold a Certificate of Mastery in Early Childhood Education and intend on continuing my education in this field well into the future.

My perspectives in this area are that children learn best when challenged with respect and supported by love in an environment that is both engaging and secure. I love that Middle Earth requires best practice and perspectives like Parenting With Love and Logic that are supported by research in the field. I also love that Middle Earth is so family-focused and supportive of those from all different types of backgrounds and family structures.

What are my goals and dreams?

Apart from preparing my class for pre-K, my goals as a teacher are to help Middle Earth grow and flourish in whatever small way that I can, so that the children here now will have the same fondness and appreciation for it when they are grown that I do myself. I’d also love to see even more childcare centers with passionate emphasis on quality care and education for children. If I had a single professional dream, it would be to see education infrastructure in this country to support children from early childhood all the way through high school with best practice and quality teaching.

On the subject of personal goals, I just hope to stay in decent enough shape so that I can keep up with my daughter when she learns to run. . .

Teacher and Classroom Wishlists

These are a few of our favorite things that we would love to have in our classrooms. We also love hand-me-downs! If your children outgrow their fun toys and gear, we can provide a happy home for gently used items. Thank you for supporting our wonderful center!

Music CDs, child-proof scissors, digital camera, books, dress up clothes, musical instruments, bean bag chairs