I am trying to avoid evaluative praise with my 2 yo son. I usually say “Good job!”, “Yay!”, or “I am so proud of you!”

I have been working on describing his accomplishments. But I still find myself saying “Way to go! You put the wipes away all by yourself!” Or “Yay! You worked very hard to put that puzzle together.”

Are “yay” and “way to go” still evaluative?

Thank you!


Mom in the cheering section




It sounds to me that in the case of the puzzle, you are sharing your son’s enthusiasm for his accomplishment when you say “Yay! You did it!” This doesn’t sound to me like evaluative praise.

In the case of the wipes, perhaps you’ve asked him for help with clean up? In that case, you might respond, “Thank you for putting the wipes away! That was a big help to me.” (Now you’re using the tool, “Describe the Effect on Others”.)

On the other hand, if putting the wipes away was a challenge he decided to take on by himself, and this time he was able to do it without any help, “Way to go!” is a nice way to share his sense of accomplishment.

As you’ve noticed, sometimes it can be tricky to figure out whether a word or phrase comes across as evaluative or not. When in doubt, I look for a “try it on yourself” example. Here’s what I came up with for this question:

Imagine you have a leaky toilet. Instead of picking up the phone to call the plumber (at great expense!) you decide to try your hand at fixing it yourself. After studying a few DIY videos on YouTube you manage to stop the leak! You are triumphant! Your friend walks in just as you are cleaning up, and seeing your accomplishment says, “Yay! Way to go!” Do you appreciate your friend’s enthusiasm? (I do.)

But what if, instead of your own toilet, it’s the boss’s toilet, and your boss asks you to take a look, since the plumber isn’t available until tomorrow. When you figure out the problem and fix the leak, would you appreciate hearing from your boss “Way to go!” Or would you prefer to hear “Thank you — that’s a huge help. I really appreciate it.” (I like this second response better.)

Let me know if this explanation is helpful!


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