Just Because You Think Your Children are Extraordinary, Doesn’t Mean They Are!

Updated: Aug 13, 2019

I get it. I always do! We love our children and it amazes us to see they reach their milestones ~ BIG or small. In every parent’s eyes, a new achievement is a WOW, and for our children to aspire for further WOWs, they expect to be praised with our laziest praise of all: “GOOD JOB!”

It is natural for us, parents to value our children– and feeling valued is key to children’s well-being; but OVERVALUING… hmmm? Believing that our children are more special and more entitled than others is putting our youngsters in peril.

We (and I use we) should avoid praising our children about areas over which they have no control. This includes any innate and unalterable ability such as intelligence, physical attractiveness, or athletic or artistic gifts. We should direct our praises to areas over which our children have control---effort, attitude, responsibility, commitment, discipline, focus, decision making, compassion, generosity, respect, love, the list goes on.

I used ‘we’, in the paragraph above because I am no saint when it comes to over-praising; I committed the big sin when I was enjoying my tiny human’s toddlerhood. Every small deed, every little action is an astounding GOOD JOB! And believe you me, all the while I thought that I am a mother ace in the parenting department. I have learned my lessons well, and have been guided by my experience to better my praising skills.

This Little One is a victim of my reprise; making him feel that “I Am The Best!” made me fall short of realization that it is causing more harm than good. In every activity, he wants to be first even if it is not his turn. And did I mention that in every activity he performs, he seeks for assurance that he did a ‘good job’? Could I have introduced arrogance to such an innocent little being? YES!

Too much praises for children as young as 1 to 3 can have negative repercussions down the road. (How did I spend my morning? (Lauding my 3-year-old for clearing his plate. Cheering on him for packing his toys away!)

Praising children for their intelligence or abilities often undermines motivation and hurts performance, and so I learned in the process of praising. I realized that kids who are told they are smart, care more about performance goals and less about learning. Kids praised for their efforts believe that trying hard, not being smart, matters. These kids are “resilient” and take more risks.

Parents attribute every conceivable perfection to their young children often breeds the behavior of arrogance, narcissism, egoism. That is exactly what happens to Dan, in the story ‘I Am The Best’. The story was written based on my personal experience on ‘Parent Praise’. The effect of overvaluing falls in the behavior of my toddler, which taught me a very valuable lesson.

So this I say:

“Do not overvalue your children. Your children believe it when you tell them that they are more special than others. This may not be good for them, Parental warmth and encouragement may be a better strategy than inflating the ego. Praising your children too much may encourage arrogance’”

This is precisely the problem with praise, or at least praise aimed at performance. It’s addicting to kids: Once they get, they need it, and they want more. And the real world doesn’t praise them for getting dressed in the morning.

In contrast, parents who showed more emotional warmth did have children with higher self-esteem over time. Parental warmth was not associated with narcissism.

“If children are treated with affection and feel that their parents enjoy their company, they may internalize a feeling of being a valuable member of their families and of society. This notion promotes positive self-esteem.”

While I’d put my husband and I into the praise-prone category, we have friends who take a more measured approach. They want their kids do things for the intrinsic joy of doing them, not because they want approval.

So when their daughter gets herself dressed and looks for praise, her mom uses an encouraging tone but careful words. “You got yourself dressed!” When the girl finishes her dinner and looks for a gold star, her dad says, “Looks like you were hungry!” These people love their kids as much as I love mine. But they don’t congratulate them for showing up. Maybe they are onto something that they are preparing them for the real life, and that is exactly what it is.

Here, I challenge you: The next time you're at the playground or a school program, take note of what parents say to their children. I'll bet you’ll hear "Good job!" (or some variation) constantly. Next, monitor what you say to your children in the same situations. Then, erase "Good job!" from your vocabulary. We've already established how useless it is. Finally, start to praise your children in the healthy ways. When you have broken yourself of the "Good job!" habit, you can then pat yourself on the back and tell yourself, "Good job!"

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