I have had my fair share of working with kids during the summer. It has been in summer youth camps, vacation bible school and tutoring. I always want to let the child know I appreciate the work they are doing in the summer.
Do you say “nice job?”
When I get stuck and want to say “Wow, nice job” because I am in a hurry or have too many children to get to, I have trained myself to say, “It looks like you put a lot of effort in that project.” With the “wow’ comment I would see the kids look at me.
With the ‘effort’ comments, I always get a smile and often the child will tell me what part he/she is most proud of without me asking. I like to offer this type of opened ended comments first to see where the conversation takes us.
Let the child guide your understanding.
Sometimes I think the picture is so colorful but the child will point out that he put a lot of effort into making the lines straight so the picture frame is perfect. If I had not allowed him to guide my understanding of what he is proud of we would have never had this conversation.
It does take more work to have the genuine conversation but I know it is more real to the kids and therefore more valuable. I often hear them re-telling other students about our conversations.