Monday, July 29, 2013

Praise Your Child No Matter What?

The Idea of Constant Praise 

We have long passed the motto of 'suck it up' into an age where everyone gets an award. As parents we are told to praise their every actions, even their fails, as a success. To turn everything into a praise worthy, 'you are awesome' moment. It is often termed as the Power of Praise. Even sport competitions have gotten on the band wagon with everyone getting a trophy, no matter how much effort was actually put into it.

Why Parents do it

As parents, we do this because we love our kids and don't want their feeling hurt. It is heart breaking to see a child cross their arms looking down with teary eyes thinking that they just aren't any good. We worry about their self-esteem; that this could somehow impair their future success. We want to do something! So at a first glance this constant praise and every body wins mentality just seems like such a great idea to help shape a generation of loving, confident citizens.

So, is it actually working? Are our kids better off by smothering them with praise with their every action?

What Psychologist & Researchers Say:

The Bad

In a study presented by the AAAS found that high self-esteem doesn't produce higher grades. However, when a child got good grades it did slightly boost a child's self-esteem. It also found that having high self-assurance doesn't help prevent drinking and smoking but increase the chances. Researchers suggest that instead of focusing on self-esteem to help raise grades, that an emphasis on improving self-control or other methods need to be applied.

Another study has found that undeserved praise can increase anxiety in students over whether someone might find out that it was in fact undeserved. On the opposite side, they have also found that if the student internalize the praise they then tend see no room for improvement there for decreases the amount of effort a student puts into their work.

Student who also predicted that they would do perform better on tests were more likely to feel depressed if they didn't meet their expectations.

Donald Forsyth, at Virginia Commonwealth University, found that students who regularly received self-esteem boosting praise got worse test scores on their finals than those who were told to study harder. 

Robert Hogan, wrote in the Harvard Business Review, that it wasn't high self-esteem that made a good leaders, it was humility.

Self esteem doesn't have a strong link with success, studies show the groups with a constant high level of self-esteem are prison inmates.

The Good

Students with high morale are more likely to bounce back faster from negative life events.

Women and girls are less likely to suffer from an eating disorder.

What should we be doing instead

The goal should be to aim for a medium level of self-esteem.

Concentrate on self control and self-discipline

Studies have shown that short bouts of exercise helped increase high brain functions including self-control.

Researches found that self control makes the difference between someone being successful or going to prison.

According to a NPR report, "The children who struggled with self-control as preschoolers were three times as likely to have problems as young adults. They were more prone to have a criminal record; more likely to be poor or have financial problems; and they were more likely to be single parents." While this study didn't prove that having high self control can prevent this, it did find a high correlation.

Resources/Recommended Reading:

The Effects of Praise on Children's Intrinsic Motivation: A Review and Synthesis Feeling Good and Grades

Undeserved Compliments May Harm Kid's Self-Esteem

The Lowdown on High Self-Esteem

Short Bouts of Exercise Boost Self-Esteem

For Kids. Self-Control Factors Into Future Success

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