How are your little angels doing after the holiday? I mean your adorable little children, not your dogs. How is the preciousness factor holding up? It is that “special” time of the year.
What’s that you say?
Your children are special year ’round? No. No they are not.
Acting like everything your children do is special is not going to help them in life. It’s not going to boost their self-esteem. All you are doing is setting them up for failure when they encounter the rest of the human species. If you are one of those parents that praise every thing your child does then you need to stop. Now. Because you are definitely doing it wrong.
I know what you think. You think very little and you think not very often. I know what else you think – if you praise your child constantly and pretend that everything he does is perfect and wonderful and beautiful then he will grow up with high self-esteem and be successful. Are you sure?
According to a book that is taking the US by storm, Nurtureshock: Why Everything We Think About Raising Our Children is Wrong (published in the UK on 4 February), too much self esteem can be a bad thing. The authors, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman, point to research that shows that high self-esteem does not increase a person’s prospects of getting good grades or having a stellar career. People with high self-esteem are no less likely to drink and be violent than their self-doubting peers. In fact, highly aggressive people tend to have high self-esteem.
Yup, think it over. Who is more likely to grow up to be an asshole? The child who is honestly evaluated and learns to deal with failure, who learns that lame efforts produce lame results, that you don’t always get what you want. Or the child who is spoiled and fussed over and told that his every fart is magical.
Of course highly aggressive people have high self-esteem. That’s because they are not familiar with the word “no”. Having never been confronted with their own failure for the first 18 years of their life when it does finally get thrown in their face they have no mechanism to cope with it. These are the people who become murders, rapists, rappers and politicians.
Furthermore, do you think your child is stupid? Evidently you do. And given that you are the child’s parent, maybe he is.
But children tend to know when they have really accomplished something and when they have not, and too much unconditional praise or frequent praise that isn’t connected to real achievements can create self-doubts and cynicism about adults. It’s patronizing.
Yup, believe it or not, your children can smell bullshit. They have better bullshit detectors than you think they do. They know when they have done something ordinary and when they have done something extraordinary.
I came to realise, that by praising children when it is not warranted can actually hold them back. Dana, as an example, if she was praised for doing what is essentially a simple task for her capability, she is getting the sense of fulfilment she is after, but not the feeling of achievement. If she is fulfilled, will she push herself to do more, to set bigger goals, so overcome more challenging obstacles? Instead of giving Dana the praise, I would acknowledge what she has done, but follow it up with a “can you put the numbered blocks in the right order from 1-10” Or if she was younger “can you divide the blocks into colours?” This would encourage her to push herself and see for herself what her true potential is, what she is really capable of. Once she has accomplished sorting the blocks from 1-10, then she will be deserving of plenty of praise, as it is deserved for an achievement well done.
Encouraging your children to to better is going to help them. Helping them take achievements to the next level is going to help them. Pushing them to develop and grow and explore is going to help them.
Praising them for showing up should be reserved for the Special Olympics.
Dweck found that children’s performance worsens if they always hear how smart they are. Kids who get too much praise are less likely to take risks, are highly sensitive to failure and are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge.
“Parents should take away the fact that they are not giving their children a gift when they tell them how brilliant and talented they are,” Dweck says. “They are making them believe they are valued only for being intelligent, and it makes them not want to learn.”
When everything you do is praised then everything you do has to be praise-worthy. Of course they are going to be less likely to take a risk, more likely to give up and be overly sensitive. A child who is rewarded with praise all the time for everything is going to encounter rejection when the praise vanishes.
As this child moves into “the grown up world” this person is going to be seeking a partner who will provide the praise which once came from the parents. Hello co-dependency. A child who is praised too much is going to be an adult who is passive in relationships and ends up being physically or emotionally abused because he or she will latch onto the first person who shows them affection.
You over praised child may also be future stalker material. Thanks.
According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.
But a growing body of research—and a new study from the trenches of the New York public-school system—strongly suggests it might be the other way around. Giving kids the label of “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. It might actually be causing it.
If you keep telling the child how smart he is then where is the incentive to do better? He’s already smart. Probably good looking and an artist as well according to you. Do you bring him breakfast in bed as well?
The downside of too much praise is that kids may start to focus on the reward rather than what they are learning. Worse, failure can be devastating and confusing for a student whose confidence is based on an inflated ego, rather than his or her actual abilities, the magazine notes. This doesn’t mean we shouldn’t praise our kids or that teachers shouldn’t try to engender self-confidence. But self-esteem should be the result of good grades and achievement, not false accomplishments.
Having worked at a college and been in a position of hiring employees, including college students, I can tell you this is totally true. Parents praise the children, schools praise the children, the college praised the children. When they came to work for me at 19 years old many of them literally could not cope with having to take instructions and perform tasks to specific guidelines. Trying to tell them what they needed to do in order to perform as required often invoked anger or tears.
Consider this study, which she did variations on for years. Researchers give two groups of fifth graders easy tests. Group one is told they got the questions right because they are smart. Group two is told they got the questions right because they tried hard. Then they give the kids take a harder test, one designed to be far above their ability. Turns out the “smart” kids don’t like the test and don’t want to do more. The “effort” kids think they need to try harder and welcome the chance to try again. The researchers give them a third test, another easy one. The “smart” kids struggle, and perform worse than they did on the first test (which was equally easy). The “effort” kids outperform their first test, and outperform their “smart” peers.
Here’s the scary part. In one variation of the study, the researchers tell the kids they’re going to give the same test at another school. They ask them to write a note to students in the other school telling them how they scored. Forty percent of the “smart” kids lie about their results, compared with 10 to 12 percent of the “effort” kids.
If your children grow up thinking they are perfect this is going to encourage them to lie, cheat and steal. Why not? They are perfect and they can get away with it.
If you want your children to grow up to be non-assholes then it starts with you. No go take that shitty fire truck drawing your child did off the refrigerator and encourage him to improve.