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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Why Overpraising Children Is Bad

Posted by on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 8:26 AM


Overpraising children is under attack, which is interesting because almost exactly a year ago, one mother’s philosophy of withholding praise was receiving the same treatment.

Yesterday, The Post’s Michael Alison Chandler wrote about a trend in which teachers refrain from showering kids with “Good try!” at every turn.
Studies show that easy, unearned praise interferes with students’ learning.

“A growing body of research over three decades shows that easy, unearned praise does not help students but instead interferes with significant learning opportunities. As schools ratchet up academic standards for all students, new buzzwords are ‘persistence,’ ‘risk-taking’ and ‘resilience’ — each implying more sweat and strain than fuzzy, warm feelings,” Chandler writes.

Wrong! This has nothing to do with "unearned praise" and teaching them a more meaningful reward system (market thinking is always contaminating American thinking). We do not want to overpraise children because they are uninteresting, and excessive praise may lead them to think they are what they are certainly not: interesting. Children don't know anything interesting and so they bore us to tears when they're much too talkative. It's fine for them to talk among themselves, but when in the presence of adults, they must know they are not in our league, that what comes out of their mouth is to us as tasteless as a carrot.

There is, in short, no such thing as "earned praise" when it comes to a child. A child is a dry loss, which is why it's better to see the family as a form of communism. At the end of childhood, a person must rate his/her family not by how much praise or rewards they received but by the quality of the communism.


Comments (22) RSS

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eastcoastreader 1
aw, they aren't always boring!
Posted by eastcoastreader on January 17, 2012 at 8:51 AM · Report this
I like carrots.
Posted by paulus on January 17, 2012 at 8:51 AM · Report this
Matt from Denver 3
Charles doesn't have time for the childishness of children. Wake him when they're robotic students of philosophy, please.
Posted by Matt from Denver on January 17, 2012 at 8:52 AM · Report this
AmyC 4
well. this should be a fun comment thread to watch today.
Posted by AmyC on January 17, 2012 at 8:57 AM · Report this
Louis CK already covered this very topic quite effectively and he made the same point as Charles without sounding like a bastard.
Posted by longball on January 17, 2012 at 8:58 AM · Report this
Keekee 7
He's funny!
Posted by Keekee on January 17, 2012 at 9:10 AM · Report this
So basically Charles thinks children should be seen and not heard.
Posted by Ken Mehlman on January 17, 2012 at 9:11 AM · Report this
Geraldo Riviera 9
To each his own. But then again, I also find the phenotypic variation of baby fruit trees very interesting even though they have yet to give me fruit.

I would say that you are biologically incurious. Don't you have any reverence for Mendel?
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on January 17, 2012 at 9:17 AM · Report this
-B- 10
The kids that are interesting. Adults that have become arrogant with a restricted way of thinking, like Charles, are not.
Posted by -B- on January 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM · Report this
Most children I know are in Charles's league. The rest are interesting.
Posted by dirge on January 17, 2012 at 9:29 AM · Report this
She's been who she is from the moment of her birth and I've been able to watch this identity blossom and grow. Her natural inquisitiveness and her interest in toy trains has grown more complex as her intellect has become more sophisticated, leading her to (at seven years old!) engineer elaborate miniatures and start exploring the concepts of evolution and simple embryology.

The seeds of adult greatness exist in every child, but they can be stunted. A good gardener knows that ignoring, neglecting and abusing a seedling will lead to an unhealthy, unproductive plant, if it even survives. Yet overly fawning over your seedlings, sheltering them from any harshness in their environment, leaves them as delicate and fragile things that won't long survive when it comes time to leave them to the garden. Children's minds must be nurtured in the same way. Protect and pamper when they're too little to watch out for themselves, but always look towards the future and know that you hold what will one day be an independent adult. Give them opportunities to harden themselves off against the cruelties of the world, but shield them from the storms that could destroy them.

My goal is to someday have a grown child who feels safe and secure; who is brave but wise; who can explore and question the world and understand the answers she finds; who can trust the love of those who care for her and reject the attention of those who would do her harm; who, above all else, is happy.

That any parent could have another goal baffles me.
Posted by Zuulabelle on January 17, 2012 at 9:45 AM · Report this
This sounds like a great idea! The world has too many adults with high self-esteem anyway.
Posted by suddenlyorcas on January 17, 2012 at 9:48 AM · Report this
You need to buy better carrots. Or grow your own; they're not that difficult.
Posted by Greg Barnes on January 17, 2012 at 9:56 AM · Report this
Queen of Cups 15
Based on that model, I would probably rate my parental home as late 90s era China. Not as bad as it could have been, but I certainly didn't have any rights and I only ever earned about 70 cents an hour.
Posted by Queen of Cups on January 17, 2012 at 10:21 AM · Report this
Teaching a child to find the value in their own work/actions without side praise is important in raising an independent person. Teaching a kid that they're not the center of the world gives important perspective.
Posted by ermaloff on January 17, 2012 at 10:23 AM · Report this
Ack, without OUTside praise.
Posted by ermaloff on January 17, 2012 at 10:24 AM · Report this
Geraldo Riviera 18
@14 as @12 pointed out, if you want your carrots to grow into nice juicy carrots, you better be observant and take care of them.

Charles is not interested in what his carrots are telling him until they are the big plump carrots he expects.…

Charles' carrots are on the left. They have been telling him all season that his soil is too compact. He didn't listen and now it's too late. His carrots are now small bitter runts and he is filled with nothing but embarrassment at his highfalutin dinner party.
Posted by Geraldo Riviera on January 17, 2012 at 10:33 AM · Report this
Allyn 19
@12 beautifully phrased.
Posted by Allyn on January 17, 2012 at 10:47 AM · Report this
warreno 20
Other people's children are boring; your own are endlessly fascinating. Just like all girls are bitches until you have one of your own.

Not too surprising about the problems with too much praise. I tend to be fairly sparse with mine, when dealing with kids in general - and when I do have something positive to say, it seems to have much greater effect.

This really isn't all that different, I suppose, from sports activities and other contests where all the kids get ribbons just for showing up. For that matter, it's not much different from social promotion.
Posted by warreno on January 17, 2012 at 12:48 PM · Report this
News flash: too much [insert anything here] considered bad
Posted by beef rallard on January 17, 2012 at 2:02 PM · Report this
Knat 22
But longball, Louis CK isn't obsessed with dragging absolutely everything into a lesson about the supremacy of communism.
Posted by Knat on January 17, 2012 at 2:57 PM · Report this
ceefurn 23
There's a whole chapter devoted to this subject in the book Nurtureshock. Makes a ton of sense.
Posted by ceefurn on January 17, 2012 at 4:32 PM · Report this

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