Fourth of Six

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Monday, March 19, 2007

The Power (and Peril) of Praising Your Kids -- New York Magazine

How Not To Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise is about how the self-esteem movement has come full circle, to the realization that you can ruin your kids with the wrong kind of praise.
Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise.

...From 1970 to 2000, there were over 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem and its relationship to everything—from sex to career advancement. But results were often contradictory or inconclusive. So in 2003 the Association for Psychological Science asked Dr. Roy Baumeister, then a leading proponent of self-esteem, to review this literature. His team concluded that self-esteem was polluted with flawed science. Only 200 of those 15,000 studies met their rigorous standards.

After reviewing those 200 studies, Baumeister concluded that having high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement. It didn’t even reduce alcohol usage. And it especially did not lower violence of any sort. (Highly aggressive, violent people happen to think very highly of themselves, debunking the theory that people are aggressive to make up for low self-esteem.) At the time, Baumeister was quoted as saying that his findings were “the biggest disappointment of my career.”
via New York Magazine


At 4:50 PM, Blogger Bobmo said...

This sounds like the report I heard about that contrasted "intelligence praise" with "effort praise." Two groups of kids were given a problem to solve. Part-way through, one group was told, "You can do it because you're really smart!" The other group was told, "You're going to solve this problem because you are really working hard on it!" The second group had a significantly higher success rate than the first because the first group tended to give up when they hit a road block. They started questioning their intelligence. "Hey, we're smart. How come we can't solve this problem?" Some people take this too far by rewarding effort over results (2+2 = 5? You get an "A" Johnny because you tried hard and you might be sad if I marked this question wrong.) The effort praise psychology sounds good to me.

At 9:34 PM, Blogger Marge said...

Long ago I read a statement aimed at parents who sometimes use poor judgment in praising their children. It was recommended that we not praise children (or anyone, for that matter) for something over which they have no control and/or made no effort to produce a praiseworthy result. To put it bluntly - you don't tell a child he or she is handsome or beautiful. You DO praise them for the effort they put forth in combing their hair neatly, or their good choice of colors when dressing. This resembles the "two group" story; one group was praised for being smart; the other for working hard.


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