Two studies: The value of honest praise

5 Jan

There are no perfect people, no one has a perfect life and everyone makes mistakes. Unfortunately, children do not come with instruction manuals, which give specific instructions about how to relate to that particular child. Further, for many situations there is no one and only way to resolve a problem. What people can do is learn from their mistakes and the mistakes of others. Craig Playstead has assembled a top ten list of mistakes made by parents and they should be used as a starting point in thinking about your parenting style and your family’s dynamic.
1) Spoiling kids
2) Inadequate discipline
3) Failing to get involved at school
4) Praising mediocrity
5) Not giving kids enough responsibility
6) Not being a good spouse
7) Setting unreal expectations
8) Not teaching kids to fend for themselves
9) Pushing trends on kids
10) Not following through
Playstead also has some comments about stage parents.
Let kids be kids. Parents shouldn’t push their trends or adult outlook on life on their kids. Just because it was your life’s dream to marry a rich guy doesn’t mean we need to see your 4-year-old daughter in a “Future Trophy Wife” t-shirt. The same goes for the double ear piercing—that’s what you want, not them. Teaching kids about your passions is great, but let them grow up to be who they are. And yes, this goes for you pathetic stage parents as well. It’s hard enough for kids to figure out who they are in the world without you trying to turn them into what you couldn’t be.
Chris Weller examined two studies dealing the “participation trophy” culture.
Weller opined in the Newsweek article, Two Words That Could Hurt Your Kids: Nice Job:
The most controversial topics in professional sports may be doping and concussions, but in youth sports, no two words are more inflammatory than “participation trophy,” those “awards” given to kids just for showing up, regardless of how well they played…
But a new trio of studies from Utrecht University in the Netherlands and Ohio State University suggest that this strategy can backfire. They also suggest that parents often dole out inflated praise to the children most likely to be hurt by it. “If you tell a child with low self-esteem that they did incredibly well, they may think they always need to do incredibly well,” Eddie Brummelman, lead author of the studies and a doctoral candidate at Utrecht University’s department of psychology, said in a statement. “They may worry about meeting those high standards and decide not to take on any new challenges.”
Brummelman and his fellow researchers devised three experiments. The first found that children with low self-esteem typically receive twice as much inflated praise as children with high self-esteem. Inflated praise is the difference between “Job well done!” and “You did an incredibly good job!” That adverb, that small boost, can turn a minor success into an expectation that ends up crushing a kid who doesn’t believe in himself.
The second study enlisted the help of parents. The children completed 12 timed math exercises, which their parents then scored. Brummelman and his colleagues watched for any instance in which the parents administered inflated praise – a “You’re so incredible!” or a “Fantastic!” – or opted for a simple, “Good job” or “Nice work.” Correlating the kids’ scores with earlier assessments of self-esteem, the team found that children with lower self-esteem received more inflated praise.
Don’t start slagging supportive parents, though. Co-researcher Brad Bushman, a professor of communication and psychology at Ohio State, says their logic is impeccable: Kids who feel bad about their abilities tend to have very negative responses to poor performance, so the observant parent intervenes with a few supportive words. Problem solved, right?
The team’s third study took the praise administered in the second study and extended it to future performance. Children were asked to recreate van Gogh’s Wild Roses (to the best of their ability) and were told the final drawing would be critiqued by a professional painter. The critic either gave the children inflated praise, noninflated praise, or no praise at all. Then they did a second drawing. This time they had a choice: Would they rather copy an easy drawing or take on a more difficult piece?
To the chagrin of participation-trophy-pushing parents in the group, the children with lower self-esteems chose the undemanding piece. They took the safe route. The high self-esteem kids were actually more likely to seek out the challenge after receiving inflated praise….
“It goes against what many people may believe would be most helpful,” Bushman said. “But it really isn’t helpful to give inflated praise to children who already feel bad about themselves.”
Paul Tough has written a very thoughtful New York Times piece about the importance of failure in developing character, not characters.
In What If the Secret to Success Is Failure? Tough writes:
Dominic Randolph can seem a little out of place at Riverdale Country School — which is odd, because he’s the headmaster. Riverdale is one of New York City’s most prestigious private schools, with a 104-year-old campus that looks down grandly on Van Cortlandt Park from the top of a steep hill in the richest part of the Bronx. On the discussion boards of, worked-up moms from the Upper East Side argue over whether Riverdale sends enough seniors to Harvard, Yale and Princeton to be considered truly “TT” (top-tier, in UrbanBabyese), or whether it is more accurately labeled “2T” (second-tier), but it is, certainly, part of the city’s private-school elite, a place members of the establishment send their kids to learn to be members of the establishment. Tuition starts at $38,500 a year, and that’s for prekindergarten.
Randolph, by contrast, comes across as an iconoclast, a disrupter, even a bit of an eccentric. He dresses for work every day in a black suit with a narrow tie, and the outfit, plus his cool demeanor and sweep of graying hair, makes you wonder, when you first meet him, if he might have played sax in a ska band in the ’80s. (The English accent helps.) He is a big thinker, always chasing new ideas, and a conversation with him can feel like a one-man TED conference, dotted with references to the latest work by behavioral psychologists and management gurus and design theorists. When he became headmaster in 2007, he swapped offices with his secretary, giving her the reclusive inner sanctum where previous headmasters sat and remodeling the small outer reception area into his own open-concept work space, its walls covered with whiteboard paint on which he sketches ideas and slogans. One day when I visited, one wall was bare except for a white sheet of paper. On it was printed a single black question mark.
For the headmaster of an intensely competitive school, Randolph, who is 49, is surprisingly skeptical about many of the basic elements of a contemporary high-stakes American education. He did away with Advanced Placement classes in the high school soon after he arrived at Riverdale; he encourages his teachers to limit the homework they assign; and he says that the standardized tests that Riverdale and other private schools require for admission to kindergarten and to middle school are “a patently unfair system” because they evaluate students almost entirely by I.Q. “This push on tests,” he told me, “is missing out on some serious parts of what it means to be a successful human.”
The most critical missing piece, Randolph explained as we sat in his office last fall, is character — those essential traits of mind and habit that were drilled into him at boarding school in England and that also have deep roots in American history. “Whether it’s the pioneer in the Conestoga wagon or someone coming here in the 1920s from southern Italy, there was this idea in America that if you worked hard and you showed real grit, that you could be successful,” he said. “Strangely, we’ve now forgotten that. People who have an easy time of things, who get 800s on their SAT’s, I worry that those people get feedback that everything they’re doing is great. And I think as a result, we are actually setting them up for long-term failure. When that person suddenly has to face up to a difficult moment, then I think they’re screwed, to be honest. I don’t think they’ve grown the capacities to be able to handle that….”
Whatever the dream you feel you didn’t realize, remember that was your dream, it may not be your child’s dream.
Helping Your Child Develop Self-Esteem
The Child Development Institute has a good article about how to help your child develop healthy self esteem. A discussion of values is often difficult, but the question the stage parent, over the top little league father, or out of control soccer mom should ask of themselves is what do you really and truly value? What is more important, your child’s happiness and self-esteem or your fulfilling an unfinished part of your life through your child? Joe Jackson, the winner of the most heinous stage parent award saw his dreams fulfilled with the price of the destruction of his children’s lives. Most people with a healthy dose of self-esteem and sanity would say this is too high a price.
Letting Go
Sarah Mahoney wrote a good article about four ways to let go of your kids and she describes her four steps, which she calls Independence Day. Newsweek also has an article on the fine art of letting go Remember it is your child’s life and they should be allowed to realize their dreams, not yours.
Where information leads to Hope. © Dr.
Dr. Wilda says this about that ©
Blogs by Dr. Wilda:
Dr. Wilda Reviews ©
Dr. Wilda ©

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: