Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Self Esteem Can Be Bad (But That's OK)

Today's USA Today has an interesting article about the backlash among parenting and child development experts against phony praise designed to raise kids self esteem. It seems that once those kids got out into the real world, they weren't ready to cope with people criticizing them. Some parents think that the kids weren't buying, anyway:

Sobel, the mother of 16-year-old twins in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says they could tell 'what was real and what was fake,' even when very young. 'I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, ‘Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments.'
I'm not sure I buy that. If that's all a kid has ever heard, he or she probably believes it. All that leads to this:
'I often get students in graduate school doing doctorates who made straight A's all their lives, and the first time they get tough feedback, the kind you need to develop skills,' says Deborah Stipek, dean of education at Stanford University. 'I have a box of Kleenex in my office because they haven't dealt with it before.'
I can say that I saw that play out in law school. By definition, most people in law school (or med school or any graduate program) are used to being near the top of the academic heap for most of their lives. But not everybody can get straight As in law school, and some folks take their first B or C (or D - I speak from experience) pretty hard, while the rest of us learn to adapt and move on.

Although the article talks about the affect of all this on GenX, of which I am a part, I don't remember all this hooey when I was a kid. In fact, I have vivid memories of a Little League coach yelling at me while I was at bat that I swung "like an old warsher [not a typo!] woman." Of course he was right (and I knew it) - but I turned out OK in the end, anyway.

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