Monday, June 4, 2007

Too Much Praise?

My son came home from the last day of his sports class/program with a trophy. What for? I asked him. "Because I won it!" he said. Turns out, as you might have guessed, everyone got a trophy. ???? Why a trophy? What is the need to reward my child because I signed him up for this program? He enjoyed it -- in fact, he loved it. It was non-competitive, a different sports activity each week. I loved that he loved it. Did we need a trophy that will collect dust and then find its way to a landfill to remind us of this pre-school activity? I don't think so.

I heard a piece on NPR that spoke to this problem, and I found this article that talks about this phenomenon of the "most praised" generation.

You, You, You -- you really are special, you are! You've got everything
going for you. You're attractive, witty, brilliant. "Gifted" is the word
that comes to mind.
Childhood in recent decades has been defined by
such stroking -- by parents who see their job as building self-esteem,
by soccer coaches who give every player a trophy, by schools that used
to name one "student of the month" and these days name 40.
Now, as this greatest generation grows up, the culture of praise is reaching
deeply into the adult world. Bosses, professors and mates are feeling
the need to lavish praise on young adults, particularly twentysomethings, or else see them wither under an unfamiliar compliment deficit.

I'm not sure exactly what the message is that my son took home along with his trophy. Just showing up is great -- but does it deserve an award? Sometimes. But how do I teach him the difference?

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