Pretentious Praise Encourages Pretense

A man who flatters his neighbor spreads a net for his feet. Proverbs 29:5 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...

Moving on from Self-Esteem

Self-esteem Dictionary.com: a favorable impression of oneself 1828 Webster dictionary: “self-esteem” had not been discovered Self-esteem is a completely modern- and somewhat neurotic – individual trend.  “The trouble with most of us,” stated Norman Vincent Peale, “is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” We have been a society completely obsessed with self esteem, a fruitless pursuit that serves to numb our very hunger for God.  An unknown author pointed out that “our dependence makes slaves out of us, especially if this dependency is a dependency of our self-esteem.  If you need encouragement, praise, pats on the back from everyone, then you make everybody your judge.” In almost every college course I took back in the 1970’s, I was taught Maslow’s hierarchy, which even in the private so called Chirstian college I attended, was considered more foundational than the Bible itself.  (His theories, which do have some validity, continue to be taught as a primary foundational truth in most education and social science courses today) Along with my generation of college students, I grew to assume that emotional and spiritual health,  was only possible when the essential core of the person was fundamentally accepted, loved and respected by others; that the ability to reach goals was impossible without one first achieving self actualization.  My college majors (Psychology and Education) were all about Maslov’s theories on self actualization. My generation fully embraced this movement, making the development of self esteem in our children the highest aim, doing and say whatever we could to somehow grow it.  Now as a grandmother, I look back and see how Maslov’s ideals readily promote...

Rewarding Sustained Effort

Essentials  Principles for Kids (Number Two of Five) Hebrews 6:9 And we desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. With their hair tied back in bows and ribbons, black tap shoes on their small feet, the five young girls looked ready to participate when the dance instructor asked them to stand on a star painted on the dance floor. I watched from the door pleased that Kate was listening intently. I understood tap and ballet to be disciplines that required focused attention and the willingness to follow instructions. An hour later, I left the dance studio sad over the events of the class period. One dancer spent the entire hour disrupting the class, listening to instructions only when she wanted to participate.   Another girl cried through the entire class captivating most of the instructor’s time and attention. I was proud of Kate.  Despite the circumstances, and being youngest in the class, she listened and tried hard.  I wondered what lessons she was actually learning though.  She left the class with a sticker and “good job”.  So did every one. Whether it is soccer class or swim lessons, the same scenario is frequently played out as I observe children participate in lessons of any sort today. Parents pay hefty fees for their kids to take lessons but all too often the lesson is cut short and lost in the process of managing inattentive kids who are not interested in...

Moving Away from Self Absorption

Essential Lesson Number One American children are learning a new pledge of allegiance and it has nothing to do with our flag or country.  Instead the pledge states “I pledge allegiance to myself and to who I want to be…” The pledge was recently plastered all over the hallways of a local elementary school as part of a revised D.A.R.E program that is offered to children across our nation. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education)  The next line goes on to say “..cause I can make my dreams come true if I believe in ME.” At first glance you may find these words innocuous.  After all, aren’t we supposed to believe in ourselves and in our dreams?  So what harm can possibly come from a promise of loyalty to myself? This pledge takes the self-esteem movement of the 1980’s- which has already gone too far- even further.  I remember my kids all learning a song (to the tune of “Frere Jacques) “I am special, I am special, look at me, look at me”.  This self-esteem movement continues to have well meaning educators and parents inadvertently nurturing entitlement and narcissistic values by teaching children to feel good about- and put their faith in – themselves regardless of what they are doing. Now I am all for confidence and the courage to go after one’s dreams.  The problem is that if ME is what I have to put my faith in and focus on, confidence and courage actually start to diminish and anxiety sets in.  Read the studies. How ironic that we do anything to nurture a positive self-esteem in our children and...