by Rachelle Tannenbaum
Parenting is all about balance, no doubt about it. In this month’s issue of the e-zine, we explore one of the many balancing acts that parents must juggle—supporting and praising children without going overboard.
If this is something that you struggle with in your own family, you may find the following courses of use to you:
Helping disorganized kids succeed in school (FON-343)
Letting go: Parenting college-bound youth (FON-346)
Helping youth succeed in the workplace (FON-360)
Teaching kids to care for pets (FON-356)
If you'd like to learn more, then you won’t want to miss our course on Grandparenting, FON-332. Details are on our courses page. Alternatively, you can bring us to your neighborhood and have us offer this or any other course at your school, church, or organization. Contact us today for more details!
WHEN PRAISE AND HELPING BACKFIRE
by Rachelle Tannenbaum
“Wow, you’re so smart!” “Here, let me help you with that.” What good parent wouldn’t want to say these sorts of things to their kids? It seems like a perfectly natural and good thing to do. Yet what many parents don’t realize is that going overboard may, in the long run, do a lot more harm than good.
What are some steps that parents can take to praise and help their kids effectively? Praise kids for effort, not intelligence
Carol Dweck, a well-known psychologist, has powerfully demonstrated the potential pitfalls of misplaced praise. In one of her studies, fifth-grade students were given some puzzles to complete. The puzzles were easy enough that everyone succeeded. Afterward, each child received only a single statement of praise: Some were praised for their effort (“You must have worked really hard”) while others were praised for their intelligence (“You must be really smart”). And that one line made all the difference. Later on, the students praised for their effort were willing to pick harder puzzles and persevere at them even after initial failure. Those praised for their intelligence, on the other hand, were only willing to pick easy puzzles. And when they were forced to try harder puzzles, they gave up at the slightest hint of failure. They had internalized the idea that intelligence is innate, that they couldn’t control it, and that it was better to give up than to risk looking dumb. Encourage kids to challenge themselves
Do you want your kids to learn to cope with frustration and failure? Well, how do you expect them to do that if they are never frustrated or unsuccessful? I am not saying that parents should deliberately throw their kids into situations that they are not prepared to handle. But you should encourage them to push themselves a bit harder. This may mean reading a harder book than before, beating a personal best at running the half-mile, or trying to follow a complicated cooking recipe. Of course, as with all behaviors, you need to be a model! “Do as I say, not as I do” simply doesn’t work. Acknowledge your children’s limitations (and your own!)
Many parents and teachers, in the spirit of “raising self-esteem,” seem to think that the way to do so is to insist that every child is exactly equal, and that any child can succeed at anything if only they try hard enough. But of course, we all know that this is not the case. Any activity—be it reading, music, athletics, or social interactions—will come more naturally and more easily to some children than to others. Parenting, therefore, requires a balance: Yes, you should encourage your children to challenge themselves and to constantly strive for improvement. But on the other hand, don’t set impossible goals. If your child is not very coordinated, or simply hates sports, than insisting he try out for Little League may prove in the end to be painful for him and damaging to your relationship. Let your kids learn from their own mistakes
It may be tempting to jump to the rescue whenever kids make mistakes. But if you constantly do that, they will never learn to rescue themselves. If your child procrastinates on a homework assignment, let her get the low grade as a result, and then use this as a teachable moment to emphasize the importance of organization and time management. If you jump in and help her finish the project, or you encourage her to beg the teacher for extra credit or a higher grade, then these are the lessons your daughter will learn:
- If I don’t do my work, my parents will do it for me.
- It's okay for me to get credit for work that somebody else did.
- “Working the system” is more important than doing my work in the first place.
- If I don't take responsibility for my own actions, I won't be held accountable.
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