A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet.
According to US News and World Report, 80% of high achieving high school students admit to cheating because they consider it necessary to get ahead. These students cheat because they are more concerned about looking smart than actually gaining the skills to become smart. (Most say that this cheating goes undetected!)
They obsess over looking great but fail to actually seek greatness itself.
Therefore, they miss out on the joy of true engagement and growth. They work hard to disguise shortcomings by lying, cheating and taking short cuts. They work to look and feel great: social media images and perceptions, internet relationships, accomplishments in video games.
In recent posts, I addressed current philosophies that may be discourage kids from actually engaging wholeheartedly:
- How risking too little stands in the way of wholehearted engagement in life.
- How over protection weakens our kid’s resolve to grow and learn.
Today I want to address one final aspect: How pretentious praise encourages pretense and discourages authentic engagement.
Kids who are raised on a diet of excessive praise or flattery may likely grow up longing excessively for the affirmations of others. Inside they know they are not as great as they were told; that they really can’t be anything they want to be. (Not every singer is destined to be the next American Idol!) This fear of falling short of expectations becomes so strong that they quit risking and pick the safer path of pretending instead. We all wish to be affirmed but when the desire to be praised becomes the overriding pursuit, kids quit growing and start pretending .
And kids who prefer to pretend will likely cheat. Without the skills to actually get ahead in life, cheating feels necessary.
Pretentious praise is praise that is:
- exaggerated, showy and therefore hollow because it’s likely not real – “You are the best singer in the world.” “You are the most beautiful girl I know.”
- A judgment statement about who you see the child or wish the child to be – “You are brilliant.” “You deserved to be the captain.”
Kids need plenty of positive encouragement and parents need to be their kid’s strongest cheerleaders, but the self esteem movement got it wrong – really wrong. We need to “right the ship” and quit hurting our kids with pretentious praise.
Check out these blogs on more information about how to affirm your kids in ways that encourages genuine growth:
- Why smart kids don’t try.
- Read one woman’s poignant story about the dangers in inflated praise as well as the value of honest encouragement.
- We may lose more than we gain by telling our kids how great they are – (This post includes a list of things to say that encourage growth).