Why do we praise children for being ‘good’?

Not to them but to one another?

“Your boy was so good today”, or

“we loved having him, he was so good”.

What are we saying when we don’t say they were good?

That they were bad?

And what is the definition of good anyway,

and whose definition are our children working to?

How can you measure something you do not, or cannot, define?

Good teaches us nothing.

Good teaches us to toe the party line.

Good teaches us that we must fit in with other peoples expectations of us, even if we don’t know what these expectations are.

Don’t tell me or anyone else our children have been good or are welcome because they are good. It’s too vague and the opposite connotations heartbreakingly negative.

Talk about exactly what it is they’ve done to impress you.

Did they listen?

Were they attentive?

Did they follow all your instructions?

Were they helpful today?


It’s just a lazy way of saying “I approve of you”

And not saying it

“I don’t”






  1. Very true! We always comment on the behaviour of other children don’t we – I hadn’t thought of that! #effitfriday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      We do, but too vaguely. I’d love it if we could be more specific. I knew I grew up chasing the ‘good’ without really knowing what that was and when Icame to adulthood, when good is no longer appropriate, I was left adrift.

  2. I will tell the girls when they have been ‘good’ but will also tell them why.
    You can’t say as a child when you have ben told you were good you were not proud of yourself? Its a nice thing to say. In reality you either behave well or not? Or is this just the way I’m seeing things? I don’t think many people say good without a reason why but not really taken notice of others I suppose!
    I will also tell them why their behaviour has not been great. How else will they know what I expect. Forget the rest.
    Enjoy others response to this x

    • mrssavageangel says:

      Hahaha thanks hon. It’s the general terms I hear as an observer. It worries me. My son doesn’t understand the expectations of ‘good’ and it upsets me to think people would not consider him or other children like him as ‘good’. But that got me thinking well what the hell is ‘good’ anyway.

  3. This is a really interesting post. I always tell my little boy if he is being good, or praise him for doing well. But I also let him know when he is not. He is starting to know the difference now so always wants my praise rather than my stern voice which always means he is better behaved….some of the time at least lol #picknmix

    • mrssavageangel says:

      I don’t disagree with teaching our children right and wrong at all and I’m glad your child is learning this well. I struggle with this as mine isn’t interested in praise. Although he knows the tone that means to pay attention ? My worry is more that some children will be seen as good and others not, even though those parameters are not universal.

  4. One of my massive bug bears when my ones were babies was the ‘are they good’ question, I used to always want to answer back with a sarky comment. Thanks for linking to #PickNMix
    Eilidh x

    • mrssavageangel says:

      So glad you get it Eilidh! It’s just so vague and it doesn’t always reflect what someone has done it been that day! It breaks my heart to think people might not understand my boy is being as good as he can be because it doesn’t meet their expectations of good!

  5. Very true, language is so complicated and mixed with meanings it is very difficult to get it right at times. But get what you mean though somewhere whatever your doing your likely to be confirming (God why the fuck did I do psychology and getting lost). Even if it is unconscious or lack of power I.e. No money we all influence and shape our behaviour. Good and bad it is everywhere. X #effitfriday

    • mrssavageangel says:

      I agree, good and bad exist. I worry though that our children are expected to fit a model that they, and maybe even we, don’t know how to define. Thanks!

  6. This is very thought provoking – not only do people tell me my son has been “good” I ask if he’s been “good” and I shouldn’t. I need to specify more. x

  7. Ha I’m pretty sure I say this a lot without thinking about it, but it’s rare I say a few words when I can say a lot, so the ‘good’ is usually followed by an explanation of what they’ve been helpful with etc. There are so many things we automatically say without realising it!

    Stevie x #PicknMix

    • mrssavageangel says:

      We do. Sometimes, that’s just life, but when you look closer it can be worrying, what kind of messages we are sending without even realising. Thank you for hosting!

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