OK so I ran across this article today will killing time on my lunch hour.
Basically it talks about a self esteem movement that started in the
80′s that educators are just now learning 20 years later that praising
your children constantly is not good for their development. What they
thought would plant the seeds of self esteem really creates a aire of
neediness, entitlement, and self importance.
Personally I was born in ’74 and my folks somehow missed the memo on
praising kids and not hitting them. While I am not a big fan of the
whole hitting thing, I can honestly say that I never even considered
praising my child for everything little thing they do. When he does
well, praise, when he does bad correction. I thought it was that
straight forward but I guess it isn’t. Those of you who have read some
of my previous posts know that my wife and I are expecting our first in
about 3 weeks (as I write this entry) and growing up I really respected
my parents. So naturally I look to their example to raise my own child.
If I did exceptionally well at something they let me know I did well,
if I screwed up I had a tanned hide, and everything else in between was
just what I was supposed to do. After reading this article I started
talking with some friends at work about their experinces with their own
children, who are older, and I was floored to hear how educators handle
When I was in school (yes I have already turned into my father) the
only kids who were given awards were the ones who made honor role, won
the spelling bee, math or science fairs. Others won trophies (1st, 2nd,
3rd, MVP) in athletics or were recognized for outstanding achievements
in art or other crafts. I thought they were joking when they said that
now everyone gets a certificate. Literally kids get recognition for
just even showing up. And one father told me that in the T-ball and
little league program his son is in they doesn’t even keep score. What
the ??? Some of my fondest memories of childhood is me standing up with
my teammates and getting our trophies at the end of season awards
banquet. But that was because I knew that I was part of a team that did
better than everyone else. How that is even possible when there is no
way in which to measure achievements. If something if assumed or handed
to someone it is never appreciated. Heck, growing up I would have
rather even had 3rd place than 2nd because it meant I won the last game
and not just lost to the 1st place team in the finals. Now I understand
that not every child is a Micheal Jordan, but my experinces encouraged
me to work harder when I wasn’t good at something because winning was
an obtainable goal. And if I just plain lacked all talent in something
I found something that I could learn to do well. I still can’t dribble
a basket ball but I can certainly knock a baseball out of the park.
Now I may be overly cynical but isn’t that lying to our children?
When they finish school and go out into the world they will be judged
not only on their performance, but additionally on how they act, look,
and interact with others. This is a fact, not a pretty one, but it is a
fact that everyone has to deal with. I would love to be able to tell my
child that if they work to the best of their ability that they will get
the job they want. NASA doesn’t hire people from where I went to
school, Vogue doesn’t hire people who graduate at the top of their
class but don’t have the right look, and that isn’t even taking into
account descrimination against race, sex, and religion. I wish it
wasn’t this way but sadly this is the way the world is. Doesn’t
ignoring these harsh realities do them a disservice by having them get
used to the idea that regardless of how well they do they will be
rewarded in some way, when the reality is that even if they do a
awesome job where they work it will most likely go unnoticed or
unappreciated? Not that I am saying that from the womb kids need to be
beaten over the head with the cruelity of the world. But I do think
that the small dissappointments of not placing in every contest is a
good way to help prepare them emotionally for the world that they are
I am all for giving a pat on the back so to speak when it is deserved, but isn’t this encouraging mediocrity?
To quote one of my favorite movies, The Incredibles:
“…And when everyone is a super, then no one will be.”
What does everyone think?
Totally in agreement, man. We are raising a generation of wusses. Isn’t part of what kids need to learn is how to lose AND how to win with dignity, good manners, and grace? In fact, isn’t that maybe the most important part?
Josh11 took the words right out of my mouth. We are becoming way too concerned about “self-esteem” to the point that we are not allowing our kids to fall, fail, lose. Isn’t it exactly falling, failing, and losing that teaches kids to learn how to get back up, be persistent, self-motivate, and work things out? And aren’t these things some of the key elements in building up self-esteem?
Of course, there’s gotta be balance – it’s not like we’re trying in purpose to make them lose to learn this character stuff. And yes, there are some kids that are “sensitive souls” that we have to handle with more careful attention.
Nonetheless, kids have to learn how to recover from falling well. it’s the same reason why you don’t see 6-year-olds still not able to walk. They learned to walk by falling down and getting up.
by the way, a friend on twitter just sent me this good article on how best to praise kids.
Important points on a touchy subject. I talk about this a lot in my parent workshops. Here’s an article I wrote recently on Powerful vs. Pitiful Praise:
It isn’t necessarily how much we praise, but whether we do it effectively. Generic, insincere praise isn’t effective and can possibly do more harm than good. Specific, concrete praise can teach and encourage kids to do the right thing.
Thanks for starting a good conversation!
(I tried posting earlier but don’t think it went through. . . sorry if this is a double post).