Being a mum to four I'm constantly hearing refrains of "Look at me, look at me!", watch this!", "Look at my new trick!" and while I love them all so much sometimes I don't know how to respond. I don't want them to rely on my approval to feel good about themselves. So I do watch and try not to say good boy or good girl. Rather I try to say something along the lines of I've never seen you do that before or Is that a new trick, or do you feel proud of yourself?
There is a great article on Joyous Birth about why not to sat good girl and good boy. I'm still trying to wean myself off the habit because it's just something that you hear so often that you find yourself saying it without thinking.
My gist of the whole thing is that when you praise kids you are conditioning their behaviour to respond to your expectations. They grow up seeking approaval as adults. If we give children the attention that they really need-in the form of co-sleeping, extended breastfeeding, baby-wearing as well as listening to them as real people and meeting their emotional needs as well as their physical needs- then they won't need to seek this false attention by asking our approval all the time.
Learning some thing new or reaching a normal developemental milestone should be treated as normal, rather than recieving hand-clapping and cheering. When a child does something thoughtful or nice all they need is a simple 'thankyou'.
As an adult I sometimes still feel the need to seek the approval of others to feel good ar acceptable. I never really learned to value myself.
A couple of years ago my sister wrote a song about still looking for your parents approval as an adult called 'Look ma no hands' and it really says it all.