Leadership guru Dr. Tim Elmore writes extensively about how we as parents are failing our children today — mollycoddling them with an over-protectiveness that has a crippling effect on their performance in much of what they do. Tim is a leading authority on how to understand the next generation and prepare tomorrow’s leaders today. He is a best-selling author, international speaker, and president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit that helps develop emerging leaders under the philosophy that each child is born with leadership qualities. He is also a best-selling author of more than 25 books, including Generation iY: Our Last Chance to Save Their Future, Artificial Maturity: Helping Kids Meet the Challenges of Becoming Authentic Adults, and the extensive Habitudes® series. Below is a shorter paraphrased version of his beliefs. Tim Elmore and other experts also discuss the damage that can be down with over-paising our children. This blog, Not Enough Risk Taking & Too Much Praise was inspired by field-testing several apps this week with older students that weren’t up for the challenge and risk taking to progress and several other apps that blantantly over-did the compliments and verbal rewards.
1. We Need to Nurture Risk Taking
Unfortunately, the over-protecting trend we have taken as a society has had a harmful effect on our youth. Parents need to find ways to encourage smart/good risk taking. This preoccupation with a safety over the past several decades starting with the “…Tylenol scare and with children’s faces appearing on milk cartons. We became fearful of losing our kids. So we put knee-pads, safety belts and helmets on them… We’ve insulated our kids from risk.” Psychologists in Europe have discovered that if a child doesn’t play outside and is never allowed to experience a skinned knee or a broken bone, they frequently have phobias as adults. Interviews with young adults who never played on jungle gyms reveal they’re fearful of normal risks and commitment. The truth is, kids, need to fall a few times to learn it is normal; teens likely need to break up with a boyfriend or girlfriend to appreciate the emotional maturity that lasting relationships require. Pain is actually a necessary teacher. Consider your body for a moment. If you didn’t feel pain, you could burn yourself or step on a nail and never do something about the damage and infection until it was too late. Pain is a part of health and maturity.
2. We Rescue Too Rapidly
The fact is, as students experience adults doing so much for them, they like it at first. Who wouldn’t? They learn to play parents against each other; they learn to negotiate with faculty for more time, lenient rules, extra credit and easier grades. This actually confirms that these kids are not stupid. They learn to play the game. Sooner or later, they know “someone will rescue me.” If I fail or “act out,” an adult will smooth things over and remove any consequences for my misconduct. Once again, this isn’t even remotely close to how the world works. It actually disables our kids.
3. We Rave Too Rampantly
The self-esteem building faction has been around since Baby Boomers were kids, but it took root in our school systems in the 1980s. We determined every kid would feel special, regardless of what they did, which meant they began hearing remarks like:
- “You’re the best!”
- “You’re smart!”
- “You’re right!”
Not all Praise is Created Equal
Dr. Carol Dweck wrote a landmark book called, Mindset. In it, she reports findings of the adverse effects of praise. Dweck concludes that our affirmation of kids must target factors in their control. When we say “you must have worked hard,” we are praising effort, which they have full control over. It tends to elicit more effort. When we praise smarts, it may provide a little confidence at first but ultimately causes a child to work less. They say to themselves, “If it doesn’t come easy, I don’t want to do it.” It may be that not all forms of praise are harmful.
Research has shown that different types of praise have different effects on children. Distinctions have been made between person praise and process praise. Promote smart risk-taking and the payoff of effort and good old hard work. Help kids learn the importance and advantage stepping out of their comfort zone and achieving a goal on their own without all unnecessary cheering from the sidelines!