Thursday, March 08, 2007

Why I'm Glad I Don't Have Kids Yet

No, no...some rambunctious brat didn't annoy me on the subway. The reason I'm glad is because I was able to read this article about the dangers of overpraising your children in New York magazine and actually listen to what it had to say. It was an article that both TM...shorthand for The Mormon until I come up with a new name...and I had wanted to read, but I just got around to it today. The information presented was so startling, I felt my heart race. The results of the studies cited blew my mind! Bronson did a brilliant job at getting to the roots of why parents overpraise, or even falsely praise:

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. Praising him for just a particular skill or task felt like I left other parts of him ignored and unappreciated. I recognized that praising him with the universal “You’re great—I’m proud of you” was a way I expressed unconditional love.

Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.

In a similar way, we put our children in high-pressure environments, seeking out the best schools we can find, then we use the constant praise to soften the intensity of those environments. We expect so much of them, but we hide our expectations behind constant glowing praise. The duplicity became glaring to me.

This idea is my favorite part of the article: praise is just as much, if not more, about the parent as it is about the kid.

I never thought about it before...and I won't think too much on it now...but I wonder if I suffered from what the article suggests. I grew up being told I was very smart. To this day, my sisters and I are differentiated by how good grades come to us. For me, they just seem to happen; for my sister, she studied extremely hard.

But I remember freaking OUT when I got anything below an "A-"...on anything. In my "advanced" fifth grade class, I cheated repeatedly. I remember not wanting to cheat, but feeling like I had no choice. In fifth grade, come on! I actually got caught once and ended up getting a "D" in science. The only reason I didn't fail was because I had been getting "A" in all my assignments up until that point.

I wonder if the notion of being afraid of failure has affected the choices I've made in my life. I always wanted to run a theatre company...am I not doing it because I failed at my first attempts?

Huh...

Anyway...I am really glad I don't have kids because I can read this article with an impartial eye. The writer interviewed a parent who instantly rejected scientific studies because her version of praise was working for her. I'm glad I'm not in a situation where I instantly discount the article because it rattles my cages. In fact, I am paying the article more attention because it rattles my cages. It's going into my mental parenting file cabinet.

1 comment:

vaslav said...

Interesting article, but kind of flavor of the month for a mother who's always reading another article about what we're doing wrong...hey, maybe we're the ones who need some praise! Seriously, I think parents sometimes mix up giving supprt (do your best, we love you no matter the final outcome) with praise (you are fantastic at everything you do!). That kind of praise does lead to anxiety - who can live up to it?
It sounds like you'll be the best parent ever (praise), or, a great one if you ever decide you want to try it (support).