Alternatives to Saying, ''You're a 'Good' Girl''
By Carolyn R. Tomlin

What a good girl! You completed the puzzle, good boy! You’re eating a good lunch. What a good line you’re making. The weather is good today. This is a good class. Please listen real good as I read a story, okay?
While conducting research in a child care center recently, I heard a teacher use the word “good” 27 times in one hour. If this continues in an eight-hour span, children could hear it approximately 216 times daily, 1080 times weekly. Imagine how many times children hear the word good in a year!
Hearing the spoken word is one way children learn language. Children who are exposed to a diverse vocabulary develop a higher level of thinking and speaking. An early child psychologist from Stanford University who supported this theory was Albert Bandura. According to Bandura, young children acquire language by observing and imitating adults. Parents and teachers say words, phrases, and sentences that children may imitate. In some instances, adults may expand children’s own utterances, thus encouraging more creative words in their own language production. But often they do not.
Jean Piaget, a Swiss psychologist known for his studies of child development, wrote about accommodation. Accommodation occurs when children change a thought pattern to fit an unexplained piece of data. Children must revise or adapt their thinking when new information does not fit into the old. Children who are deprived of many first-hand learning experiences may never receive enough challenge to existing thought patterns to produce new ideas. When children are not challenged, they are deprived of the joy and excitement of intellectual activity.
Confusion happens when caregivers respond to a child’s behavior as good – then use the same “good” to praise a child for completing a task. Instead of using words that baffle young children, consider alternative ways to distinguish between a behavior and a skill.

 Instead of This…     

 Try This…

Joey, this is a good book for you.  Joey, I think you will enjoy this book about farm animals.
The weather is good today, so we will play outside. The weather is sunny and warm. It’s a perfect day to play outside!
Children, please eat this good lunch.    Children, this lunch looks delicious! Let’s try one bite from each food item.
Alyce, your painting is good!  Alyce, you’ve used many beautiful colors for your painting.
Roberto, you are a good boy.  Roberto, it was very kind of you to share your toys.
Be good while I tell you a story.    Thank you for listening when I read.  
I wish you boys would be good!  I like the way Juan is walking. Thank you Paul for helping your friends.
 Susan, your block structure is good.  Susan, you used many different types of blocks to build a very tall building.

Carolyn R. Tomlin, Jackson, TN, has taught early childhood education at Union University. She is the author of Teachers as Published Writers: A Manual for Educational Publishing, available toll free at 1-888-280-7715 or

Bandura, A. (1971). Psychological modeling: Conflicting theories. Chicago, IL: Aldine-Atherton.

Piaget, J. (1964). Development and learning. In Piaget rediscovered. Ripple, R. and Rockcastle, V. (Eds.). Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.