Is it the words “Good job!” that bother you, or the effusive tone in which they are frequently delivered by other parents? Also, is it all praise that eludes you, or does it just seem to you that some types of commonly accepted forms of praise for children are over the top?
(Similarly, do all compliments make you uncomfortable, or only those that make too much of something that you found to be relatively easy? “Great job mailing that letter!”)
Everybody likes to be seen and appreciated. Praise is part of this when it makes it clear that the person doing the praising understands and appreciates the amount of effort you put forth. For example, you probably wouldn’t mind it if your wife said, “Thanks so much for surprising me with that beach vacation I’ve always wanted! That was awesome! I really appreciate it!” because you probably put a lot of work into it, and you weren’t 100% sure that she really wanted to go, so you like being told that you got it right. But if she said, “Wow, you did a great job buckling Jimmy into his car seat! Thanks so much for keeping him safe!” you’d be rightfully annoyed at her implication that your son’s safety was something difficult or extravagant for you. Worse, it would be condescending for her to imply that she has a right to thank you for it, when his safety is your concern as much as hers.
Children need to be seen and appreciated and encouraged in order to develop properly, but your style does not have to be the same as your wife’s. When deciding whether (and how) to praise your son for something, think about how hard it was for him to do it, and then think how you would like to be acknowledged for something similar. If you are made self-conscious at the thought of imitating the high-pitched, overly enthusiastic (to your ear) praise of other adults, fear not. As Meg says, a quiet, descriptive acknowledgment of a tough accomplishment, or a brief “I liked the way you included that other boy in your game,” or a quick “Good job,” for a routine task before moving on, can also give your child that warm, confident feeling inside. And occasionally, if his accomplishment is something he has worked on for a while and he himself is very proud of it, the three of you might have a little celebration.