Wednesday, November 30, 2011

When Everything is Special, Nothing is Special

During a recent episode of his radio show, Bryan Suits gave his opinions about the children who have been raised on praise for each and every thing they've ever done.  His opinion, and it's one I share, is that by making every baby step in maturing and growing a cause for celebration, children never learn to grow on their own without that celebration.  Here's an example he points out of the result of that kind of upbringing:

As I grew up, effort and results were expected, with results being more important than the amount of effort you put in.  A's were rewarded, but B's were expected.  There was no "you tried really hard!  Yeahhh!".  This carried over into my adult life very well.  A professor, a boss, or anyone else in the real, adult world is going to reward me because I had good intentions, or I tried really hard, or if I was just a good person.  I get rewarded for results, and children should be raised the same way.

I reward my children when they achieve important milestones, but not for everything they do.  The first time Girlie Bear made her bed and cleaned her room without help or prompting, she was taken out for breakfast.  Now, it's expected, and it's not even listed as part of the chores she does to earn her allowance.  Boo is still at the stage where he needs lots of reminding and encouragement, but I don't make a big deal out of each and every thing he does.

I don't believe in graduation ceremonies after 1st grade.  I don't believe in telling children that they're smarter/prettier/more talented than anyone else, especially if they truly are.  I don't give an allowance that isn't earned through manual labor, and I don't plan on buying anyone a car just because they survived to the age of 16.  I wholeheartedly believe in the truth of TANSTAAFL, and strive to instill its wisdom into my kids.

What we are dealing with now are people coming into the work force who expect to be infantilized and praised by everyone in their life.  They want the security of a corporate job, but demand the perks of working for themselves.  It is becoming harder and harder to find talented people who have a work ethic good enough to do work that is hard, boring, and dirty.  But that's the kind of work that new workers are expected to do, and they usually get paid dirt to do it.  Yeah, it sucks, and it's not what kids are told to expect, but that's the way it is.  Either accept it, find a way to make money, or learn to live with vastly dimished monetary requirements.

I guess this is one of the reasons that Junior Bear and I clashed so much while he was in high school.  His entire life, he'd been praised for doing things that I expected him to do without anyone noticing.  While his teachers would tell him he did a good job getting a C in a subject because he "worked really hard", I would accept the C, but not tell him he was doing an exceptional job.  I refused to be a helicopter parent, and he was shocked to the bone when I followed through on a threat to pull him out of his band program if he didn't start performing in his other classes.  Even the band director, who seemed to be an early product of the "Everyone gets a trophy" generation, was aghast as I signed the paperwork to put Junior into a health class instead of marching band.  Over time, Junior's inability to deal with my high bar for excessive praise was corrosive to our relationship.  Everyone else in his life was telling him he was the next best thing to Einstein, while I was the one who expected him to perform because that was the right thing to do, not because someone was patting him on the butt for it.

Take a good hard look at the individual in that video folks.  That is an example of the people who are going to be running this world in a couple of decades.  We've got our work cut out for us if we're going to get them to accept that the world doesn't care about your effort or intentions before they take over management.


Duke said...

The guy in the video cracked me up, talk about someone needing a good 'bitch slap'
1st grade graduations are a pet peeve of mine as is every kid getting a trophy

cybrus said...


I, too, expect a lot from my kids. Wasn't it the Incredibles movie where the bad guy said "When everyone is special, then no one is"? True enough

BlueEyedBaby said...

I agree completly. If it wasn't for my parents expecting me to do well, there is no way I would be where I am today.

Mamma Bear said...

This is the hardest thing for me to teach my 6 year old grandson. For example,he played soccer last year. At the end of the season, everyone got a trophy. I was at some of the games. My grandson did not deserve a trophy. There were only one or two players who actually warranted getting a trophy. My grandson was so proud of his so I asked why did you get a trophy and he said his coach told them they deserved it. I tried to tell him in a kind way he did not deserve a trophy. I told him when his Mom and uncles were in sports, they got a trophy because they deserved it. We used to have 1st, second and third places. You played hard in order to win. Now everyone is a winner. I don't know how to make him understand.

BobG said...

Some people think they can give kids self-esteem by constantly rewarding them for nothing. Self-esteem has to be built or earned; it cannot be given freely.
Just my opinion.

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