Earlier today, the *Daily Mail *posted a story about praising kids and the damage it can cause. The story appeared as a new book* NurtureShock* has parents across the globe wondering whether they’re too nice, too strict, totally awesome, or just totally inept.
The Daily Mail’s opening line reads,
“Lavishing compliments on youngsters for doing something trivial actually demotivates them, experts say.”
To this I say, *isn’t that obvious? *I mean, I’d expect a puppy to be motivated by receiving a strip of dehydrated bacon every time he doesn’t pee on the carpet. But if I was a seven year old kid, I think the bacon would start to loose its meaning pretty quickly.And I think part of the problem is that too many parents do reward their kids for *not *doing something, rather than rewarding them for doing something challenging and doing it well. There’s a big difference between, offering “Amazing job, Bobby, you stayed inside the lines!” for a piece of sloppy scribble and “Well done, Bobby, this shows you took your time” for painting a genuinely decent picture.
And as this is a Stanford blog, I’ll mention that Stanford got its nod in the article:
“[*NurtureShock *authors Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson] cite an analysis of 150 studies at Stanford University, in California, which has found that **students who are over-praised become risk-averse, make less effort and are less selfmotivated.” **
Now, if your kid is actually talented, the chances are that he will know it. He won’t need you to unnecessarily inflate his ego with praise. And if your kid is not talented, he will know you are lying to him.
It’s simple: just don’t praise your kid. Why should you worship a child? Naturally talented kids will probably go on to believe their natural talent is enough to succeed in life, and once the shock of reality hits, it will be too late for them to actually build a foundation for that talent. And the naturally untalented kids? They will think the undue praise is an affirmation of their *inability to succeed. *Untalented kids can succeed — they just need to put in more work to make up for nature.
One place where I did disagree with Merryman and Bronson, is when they say,
“for compliments to work they have to be limited, sincere and about effort rather than achievement.”
I’m confused about why we should not compliment our kids on achievement. Achievement is real, despite what the “Everyone’s a winner!” crowd might believe. In life, there are winners and there are losers. I know that I’m going to promote winning and achievement in my household. But I’m going to promote winning through the formation of a skilled foundation, a need for quality work, personal responsibility, a moral core, and an aversion toward contentment.