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Faint praise

The most e-mailed story this year from New York Magazine is Po Bronson's article, "How Not to Talk to Your Kids." The
thesis is that our generation of parents over-praise our children,
which can inhibit their social and academic development rather than
feed them.

The article suggests that we commend our children for
effort, rather than results. Bronson describes trying this strategy
himself with his 5-year-old son, with an unexpected side effect:

was remarkable how noticeably effective this new form of praise was.
Truth be told, while my son was getting along fine under the new praise
regime, it was I who was suffering. It turns out that I was the real
praise junkie in the family."

Bronson found that he missed telling his son how smart he was because it made him -- the dad -- feel better.

a pretty telling anecdote about our generation of parents, I think.
Many of us gorged ourselves at the buffet of self-esteem in the '70s
and '80s, and now we're pouring the same Kool-Aid into little Johnny
and Janie's sippy cups.

My daughter's middle school basketball
team finished fourth in its league this year. The league awarded them a
fourth-place trophy and each of the girls gets a day to bring the
trophy home, presumably to parade it around the neighborhood as if it
were the Stanley Cup. I'm not going to deny her the kick she'll get out
of doing that, but I wonder about it. Did the very well-intentioned
people who run this league decide they needed to cushion the blow of
finishing fourth -- rather than first -- by awarding a trophy? Did they
hand out trophies to every team that played, just to acknowledge their
efforts in a perfect Po Bronson way? Or, as I suspect, was this trophy
given to meet some unspoken need of the parents, who probably spend
more time showing it off than do the kids?

Check out the New York article and feel free to hit the comments with your take.


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