“Good job” is a simple and easy phrase that comes out of our mouths without even thinking. But this phrasing has a problem: it focuses on the end result rather than how we got there. Effective praise differs in that it focuses on the effort taken rather than the product or accomplishment itself. To help us avoid “good job,” I will share our list of praising words for kids.
Effective praise takes practice, but the effort is worthwhile for our children. Knowing how to praise can be challenging if all you heard was “good job” or constant criticism from your own parents and teachers. Since we’re trying to raise bilingual kids, we want to give better feedback in both Chinese and English.
Praise in Asian culture versus Western culture
In traditional Asian culture, ability-based comments are the norm. For example, my daughter’s former piano teacher would start each lesson with, “Let’s see if you’re smart today! 让我们看看你今天聪明不聪明 / 讓我們看看你今天聰明不聰明。” At the end of class, she would tell me, “Today, she was smart and learned quickly. 今天她很聪明，学得很快。/ 今天她很聰明，學得很快。”
On the other hand, I have been guilty of showering my kids with excessive amounts of “good job.” While I’ve been trained to provide constructive feedback in work settings, I didn’t realize I was mindlessly praising my kids until I watched videos of our interactions. Subconsciously, I may have gone overboard to make up for the lack of praise I got during my childhood. So I knew I had to practice to make my praise more meaningful.
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While I quickly learned how to give timely and useful praise to my children in English, I needed help with Chinese translations since I’m still learning this language. I’ll share encouraging bilingual phrases that we try to use every day. I hope they can help your family and school! Printables are included at the end of this post.
More positive parenting resources
- Natural Ways to Improve Communication Skills Through Play
- 7 Tips for Tackling Big Challenges Like Bilingual Parenting
Benefits of praising kids
In contrast to criticism and punishment, research shows that praise has long-term power to:
- Foster positive relationships
- Boost confidence
- Encourage self-reflection
- Reinforce desired behavior
- Improve academic performance
- Help overcome challenges
These potential benefits depend on the type of praise and how it’s used to cultivate motivation and connection.
Three types of praise
In general, praise falls into 3 categories. Here are examples with potential benefits and drawbacks.
Personal praise focuses on a child’s skills and abilities, such as “You’re so smart 你很聪明 / 你很聰明”. Often, it’s used as a way to compare a child with other people.
What’s wrong with personal praise?
Scientific American reports that “more than 3 decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn.”
The American Psychological Association agrees that heavy focus on intelligence can have “serious negative consequences for learning.” Other examples of such comments include:
- Ability-based praise: This homework is easy for you. 这些作业对你来说很容易 / 這些作業對您來說很容易。(Zhèxiē zuòyè duì ní lái shuō hěn róngyì.)
- Excessive compliments
- Wow. You are truly amazing! 哇。你真的是非常了不起! (Wa. Nǐ zhēn de shì fēicháng liǎobùqǐ!)
- You are a genius. 你是个天才 / 你是個天才。(Nǐ shìgè tiāncái.)
- Comparison with others:
- You’re the smartest student in the class! 你是班上最聪明的学生！你是班上最聰明的學生！(Ní shì bān shàng zuì cōngmíng de xuéshēng!)
- You’re smarter than your friends. 你比朋友聪明 / 你比朋友聰明。(Nǐ bǐ péngyǒu cōngmíng.)
While this can provide temporary encouragement, a child who frequently hears this type of praise may feel that a specific outcome (eg, perfection, being the best) is desired. In addition, personal praise may imply that the skill is rooted in natural talent rather than something that can improve.
Plus, there is so much more to our kids than their intellect and natural talent! It’s important to focus on other aspects of their personality, such as their curiosity and the way they treat other people.
Effort-based praise focuses on observations of actions that children can control. Instead of “You cat drawing is perfect and looks so real!”, you can say “I noticed you spent a lot of time drawing the cat.” Through effort-based praise, the child hears that the time spent on drawing was noteworthy. In other words, regardless of whether the child scribbled or painted a life-like cat, the emphasis is on the process.
By praising specific behavior, your child learns exactly which actions are desirable. So if your child is usually loud but draws quietly, you can praise them for working quietly and how it impacted other people nearby.
Ways to make praising a child more effective
Of the 3 types of praise, psychology experts recommend focusing on effort and behavior rather than personal skills. Before dishing out compliments to our kids, we should consider the goals we hope to achieve with our words.
In order for praise to become empowering, we can cultivate a growth mindset by reinforcing effort and behavior with careful thought. Strategies include:
- Observing your child and pausing to think before commenting. Even if you are proud of your child, if he or she is focused and not seeking your attention, talking can disrupt your child’s concentration and momentum.
- Being specific about what you notice and appreciate. General comments are too vague and abstract.
- Modeling to your child how you reflect on your effort and work. Encourage your child to participate as well.
- Connecting behavior to outcomes. Note how certain actions have positive and negative consequences.
- Avoiding overpraising. Praising every little action can backfire as a child can grow to rely on external motivation. They may wonder if something is wrong when they aren’t praised.
What’s wrong with “good job?”
“Good job” is not exactly bad per se, but the phrase by itself is vague at best. Other common generic remarks include:
- Nice work. 做得好。(Zuò dé hǎo.)
- That’s great! 那太棒了！(Nà tài bàngle!)
- Not bad. 很不错 / 很不錯。(Hěn bùcuò.)
Instead, this phrase can be paired or replaced with specific feedback. What exactly is “good?” What do you like about whatever you are responding to?
If you are able to take pause and observe what your child is doing, you’ll be able to notice their effects and articulate what you see to them.
20 Empowering praising words for kids you can try in Chinese and English
Observational comments in Chinese and English
Oftentimes, our kids are not necessarily seeking praise but simply our undivided attention. The following statements are examples of sharing objective observations, so our kids hear that we noticed them.
- You made most of it by yourself!
- Dà bùfèn shì nǐ zìjǐ zuò de!
- You did _____ and then you finished!
- Nín zuòle, ránhòu wánchéngle!
- You ate your vegetables!
- Nǐ chīle shūcài!
- You washed your hands!
- Nǐ xǐle shǒu!
- You read the book!
- Nǐ kàn wán shūle!
Try this: 15 Ways to Encourage Your Child to Read
Effort and behavior-based praising words for kids in Chinese and English
The following phrases can help reinforce that our children’s efforts and ideas are useful!
- You were very focused!
- Nǐ hěn zhuānxīn!
- You worked very hard!
- Nǐ hěn nǔlì!
- _______ is an awesome idea!
- _________shìgè hěn bàng de zhǔyì!
- Very organized!
- Hěn yǒu zǔzhī nénglì!
- Though it was difficult, you were patient.
- 虽然很难, 但你很有耐心。
- 雖然很難, 但你很有耐心。
- Suīrán hěn nán, dàn nǐ hěn yǒu nàixīn.
Praising words for kids with gratitude in Chinese and English
Showing appreciation for our children is a wonderful way to validate their actions.
- Thank you for doing ________, now we can…
- Xièxiè nín zhèyàng zuò……xiànzài wǒmen kěyǐ zuò…..
- I appreciate_____.
- Wǒ gǎnxiè_____.
- Thanks for your help!
- Xièxiè nǐ de bāngzhù!
Praising words for kids that encourage introspection in Chinese and English
Ultimately, we want our children to be intrinsically motivated rather than reliant on external incentives. Questions about their work can help cultivate self-reflection.
- How did you do that?
- Nǐ shì zěnme zuò dào de?
- How did you think of that?
- Nǐ shì zěnme xiǎngdào de?
- How do you feel?
- Nǐ juédé rúhé?
- What do you think about it?
- Nǐ juédé zěnme yàng?
- Can you tell me a little more about this?
- Zài gàosù wǒ duō yīxiē xìjié, hǎo ma?
- After you finish this, what will you do?
- 完成后, 你会做什么?
- Wánchéng hòu, nǐ huì zuò shénme?
- What is your favorite part about this?
- Nǐ zuì xǐhuān de bùfèn shì shénme?
- Anything else you can share with me?
- Hái yǒu shé me kěyǐ gàosù wǒ ne?
Note: Observe how your child reacts to questions. Some children may feel like they are getting quizzed on the spot. They may need grown-ups to model answering these types of questions.
Examples of feedback and praising a child in common scenarios
Scenario 1: Artwork
A child wants to share his/her drawing. Possible responses:
- What did you draw?
- Nǐ huàle shénme?
- Why did you draw this?
- Nǐ wèishéme huà zhège?
- What colors did you use?
- Nǐ yòngle shénme yánsè?
- What is your favorite part about it?
- Nǐ zuì xǐhuān de bùfèn shì shénme?
- Very creative!
- Hěn yǒu chuàngyì!
- Thank you for showing me!
- Xièxiè nǐ gěi wǒ kàn!
Scenario 2: Cleaning/organizing
A child puts away toys. Possible responses:
- Thanks for putting away the toys!
- Xièxiè bǎ wánjù shōu qǐlái.
- The room is tidy, because you put away the toys.
- Fángjiān hěn zhěngjié, yīnwèi nǐ bǎ wánjù shōu hǎole.
- The floor is clean, so it’s very safe. We won’t trip over toys.
- 地板干净时，很安全。 我们不会给地上的玩具绊倒。
- Dìbǎn gānjìng shí, hěn ānquán. Wǒmen bù huì gěi dìshàng de wánjù bàn dào.
- I appreciate your help!
- Wǒ gǎnxiè ní de bāngzhù!
Download examples of effective praising words for kids in Chinese and English
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Here are printable alternatives to “Good Job!” that you can put on your refrigerator or stick on your nightstand for practice!
- English, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, and Pinyin
- English, Traditional Chinese, and Zhuyin
What other words do you use to praise your kids in Chinese and English?
What was your personal experience with praise in your childhood? Have you noticed how your children respond to different types of praise? What has been most effective?
If you have any suggestions for translations and other encouraging phrases to add, please share in the comments below! We’d love to learn from your family!
Positive affirmations for our children (free printables)
- 30 Positive Affirmations to Tell Our Kids Everyday (English / Chinese Printable)
- Surprise Your Kids with These Positive Heart Messages!
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