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[this is good] Good stuff. I'm cringing because just THIS MORNING I tried to comfort my son by saying I knew he would be able to master a frustrating new concept in math because he's very smart. (Oops!) I was planning to start a "weird parents" group but I got lost looking for an appropriate image. Close enough? I'll do it now.


[this is good] All I know is that when I started praising Loinfruit for whatever it seemed to mean more to him than anything else I said or did.


[this is good] Interesting stuff... I'll have to read the whole article later. I'm in for that parenting group- someone send me an invite if it's created.


Hmm. The praise I give my kids isn't a motivational tool, nor do I wish to turn it into one. It's an expression of how I feel about what they are doing, and who they are.That being said, I could probably be a poster child for smart underachievers. It had nothing to do with my parent's praise and everything to do with the school system I was in, though.


Here is a parenting group:


i have a neice and whenever i'm around her i find myself telling her how cute she is... or when i see a kid on the street i declare how "cute" he/she is... and a part of me feels badly for making a somewhat shallow statement about his/her physical cuteness.but it'd be weird going around saying "wow look how smart you look".

It's Come To This...

Okay... let me toss one out there-- what about when a soccer team (level 1 competitive) plays a lousy game and all the mom's and dad's huddle around their child telling them "You did great. What a good game." Is it me, or this sending the wrong message. I see this all the time. It drives me crazy. Usually our son's know when they played a bad game. We don't have to say anything. When they play good- and they do this sometimes-- we praise. When they don't --- it's a long quiet ride in the car and then we have dinner. Later in the evening they usually talk to us about what they think they could have done better. And, why do kids get trophies just for showing up at games? What's that?! (don't get me started...)


[this is good] Thank you for posting this! My cousin is one of those super smart types who's afraid to try anything she might possible be bad at (aka, have to work to perfect).Stupid people who only get their first B in college...*grumble* (sorry, personal thing)

Something Else

[ ] I read a book on child-rearing years ago. Don't even remember what it was. There was a chapter in it that talked about "the sound of a face hitting the pavement" ... letting the kid fail, and being there to pick him up afterwards. Heresy in the over-praise era. I've also read several that talk about building a kids' self-esteem (what the 'you're so smart' idea is all about.) They say that our prisons are filled with people who have high self esteem. The consensus in these is: help your children develop at least one skill they can know they're good at, find something praiseworthy, and watch them grow.


It's Come to This: Yes,generally agree withyour comments. I have a 13 yr old who plays competitive soccer on a "travel" team. There's a difference between playing poorly and losing. If the team plays well, but the other team had more talent - then so be it, you lose. My daughter knows the difference. Hard not to console your own child, however, if they are "stinging" from a matter how it came about.I think it's OK to discuss a specific part of the game that went well. Usually my daughter will volunteerideas on how to make adjustments for the next game and recognizes areas that did not go well. Trophies should not be handed out for just showing up - joining a team means giving your best effort all the time - practice and games. Praising a best effort by a child no matter what the endeavor is the right thing to do. I get Karen's point too, though. I'm guilty of providingunconditional praise, on occasion to both my kids. Guess I need to *work* on that.


The irony for me is that a couple of years ago, when it was clear that Cassandre was going to be pretty, I set out to combat the frequent "you're so pretty" remarks with my own"you're so smart." I wanted her to understand that while looks and good hair ;-) are nice, they are not the most important thing.
Flash forward to today, and she has been struggling in 3rd grade. Big time. Like maybe she won't go to 4th grade with her peers.
We've changed her work habits, hired a tutor and are now getting her to understand that just because she doesn't instantly see the answer doesn't mean she can't figure it out. She is learning to concentrate and focus.
Just this morning we had"the brain is a muscle" talk so that she would understand that problem solving is learned and can be developed.
Hoo boy.
oh and P.s. Awards for just showing up are bullshit.


Yeah, parenthood - what were we thinking (wink wink)...
Good luck Karen.
p.s. happy hearts day


I think it's a terrible idea to tell your kid that he/she is smart. The danger is they'll think they're accepted for being smart, and stop asking questions that may endanger that perception, ie, they'll stop asking 'stupid questions'. Instead, praise them for asking questions (and I say that knowing it's a real hassle when they ask questions sometimes). I totally agree that praising a kid for smartness can have a bad effect.


And it turns out that the article agrees with you. However, at the time I thought I was countering something worse: feeling valued for being pretty.
I'm pretty sure that most parents think they are doing the right thing by encouraging little wins to boost self-esteem. So much research up to thispoint madeus worry about making sure our kids had enough. Plus, in our hearts,praise of this kindfeels good - like it's the right thing to do, even if itturns out that it mightnot be.
These days I am trying to focus more on rewarding her for specific things she does, rather than an all-purpose "you're so smart" statement.
We'll see if this doesn't screw things up worse. ;-)


I have a hunch you're doing a terrific job. Certainly she's got the most important thing of all which is knowing Mom thinks highly of her.


Thanks. It's nice to have people around me who are supportive and encouraging. Parenting is hard work and it is rare when I can feel certain that I'm doing it the "right way." Especially knowing that there is no right way.
Where's my manual?


[this is good] With my girl I always praise her curiosity and effort. It seems to actually make more of an impression, because she knows when she gets things wrong (and I've even caught her deliberately making a mistake to see if I'll correct it.) Although I understand the desire to just say "you're smart!", I have a cousin who is a genius (literally said, he's had testing) and can't hold down a job. I would rather have average kids who try brilliantly than brilliant kids who never try.

Red Pen

Parenting is such hard work, and there's no single, simple instruction manual for how to do it right. Obviously, you really care about being the best mom you can be, and you read and consider information on the topic. Your girls are lucky. Thanks for sharing.


There's nothing wrong with telling a child he or she is smart. Especially if they're worried they're not. But ideally, as the article points out, you don't put it that way. Instead, you point out tangible achievements. If there are no achievements to point to, talk about other people who've made the most of themselves. Being smart is a big help, there's no doubt, but it's not a golden ticket to happiness. That's worth trotting out, too. I have twins and sometimes one gets to feeling like she's a dimwit because the other one has an easier time academically. (She doesn't see a middle ground. Either she is a genius or a moron.) Where it gets gooey is telling them reflexively that they're smart. It doesn't help them solve their problems. But I'm not aware of any large-scale crisis in which bright kids stop asking questions for fear they'll sound stupid. On the contrary, I'm much more familiar with a condition in students I'll call "nobody here but us geniuses," where there isn't nearly enough humility to go around. It's like a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade out there, with so many overinflated egos bouncing off each other. Bleh.Anyway, I did make my weird parents group. But so far, I'm the only weirdo there. I'll try to spruce up the place and see if I can't lure in some others.


I guess I'm not done yet. I just wanted to add that I don't have a problem with giving out soccer trophies "just for showing up." So what? What's wrong with acknowledging a season's worth of play in a hyper-competitive culture where obesity is epidemic? My kids started playing soccer at four and loved showing off their trophies. If the trophies had been given out only to the best players, I imagine they would have still gotten them. But why should the trophies be reserved for the athletically gifted six-years-olds? Don't we have enough tryouts, job interviews, grades, performance evaluations and so on later in life to remind the rest of the team that they're not as good? I've heard that when a team wins a SuperBowl, everybody gets a ring, from the MVP to the people in the front office. Is that so wrong? The message is, without all of us, there is no team. I don't think I ever admired my ex more than all those times he's stood up in front of a roomful of parents and talked about each kid's contribution to the team before handing over one of those eight-inch trophies. He doesn't lie or exaggerate, but he manages to convey each player's essence with respect and gentle humor. I find it hard to see what danger lurks behind that trophy.OK, I promise I'm done!


I disagree. My daughter started with soccer at 5 and 8 years later at 13 she is still playing.We've lived through many types of coaches and soccer "environments": recreational + competitive travel teams. A trophy handed out at 6 to the kid who merely shows up because their parents signed them up for something and they put no effort into any practices or games has no meaning. It's reinforcementof the idea that no effort = a prize anyway, so why bother trying.You might as well give the trophy to the parent for driving them thereeach week. I'm not saying that a prize is only given to thegifted athletes, far from it. It's the effort of trying whether you just learn how to kick a ball correctlyby the end of the seasonor you scored every goal. That's what should be acknowledged and/or rewarded by the coach.


I see the rush to over-praising as the handmaiden to the widespread grade inflation going on. As a college English instructor, I have definitely seen the outcome of parents and teachers too eager to praise and reward kids for mediocre work. Kids who get a C on an average essay and wail, "But I got straight A's in high school!" or "I was the valedictorian of my graduating class!" To which I always had to answer, "Well, you're going to have to work a lot harder to get A's around here." Nasty business.


I guess I haven't seen all that many kids endure a season of soccer while hating it so much they won't even try to learn how to kick the ball properly. Seems like those kids usually fall off the roster after a few practices. I did know a girl, a very shy girl, who played co-ed for three or four years, but she always seemed to cling to the edge of the field. She would run up and down the field, but she seemed afraid to get near the ball. When she turned eight and moved to an all-girls team, something changed. She blossomed as a player. It was so much fun to watch this "wallflower" begin to play, really play, with energy and power. I don't know why or how she changed; whether it was being on a girls' team or just growing up a little. Should a trophy have been withheld from this child every year she didn't try hard or play well? I find it hard to imagine what good that would have done. But I can certainly imagine her being embarrassed about not receiving one, even at six years old, and thinking maybe she really didn't want to play anymore. I'm glad it didn't happen that way. I think most of the kids in our league know who the better players are on their teams, they understand that playing well confers a reward of its own, and they also realize that these little trophies do not correlate to MVP status. Certainly I've encountered kids who were mini-megalomaniacs on and off the field. But it took a hell of a lot more than a participation trophy to get them that way.

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