February 12, 2007

Kids and Praise

Raising a child is perhaps the utmost social engineering endeavor. Far surpassing anything any strange state has ever endeavored. One that's perhaps more treacherous because you have a near blank slate of a young mind on which to impress. A slate that, through strange processes of osmosis, is likely to absorb all kinds of qualities from people around, to which the parent might be completely oblivious.

One doesn't have to read Freud to realize how utterly important the early few years of a child's life are to his eventual emotional/intellectual/social development. And parents figure centrally in this of course.

Pop psychologists say, perhaps not always without a kernel of truth that how a father treats his daughter or a mother treats her son has a lasting impact on how the girl or the guy interacts with a future partner in a relationship.

So I was recently reading on New York Magazine the dangers of praising a young child. My parents weren't big about praise. Not atypical of desi/deshi parents I suppose who are constantly struggling to find a right balance between discipline and freedom, praise and monition.

According to the NYmag article, it is not a good idea to praise your kid too much, especially regarding his "smarts." Apparently, this sort of praise undermines the importance of effort to the kid. Soon, he/she learns to divide the world into skill sets he possesses versus ones he doesn't.

Things he thinks he is naturally good at, he continues to do, and he soon starts to develop one-dimensionally, avoiding other activities he decides he is not naturally gifted at. In sum, smart kids cop out and are often not hard-working.

So what's the solution? Shouldn't we praise our kids at all (I don't have one btw)?

Ashley Merryman, concludes:

Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not
telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own
conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too
soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the
deduction himself.
But what if he makes the wrong conclusion?
Can I really leave this up to him, at his age?
I’m still an anxious parent. This
morning, I tested him on the way to school: “What happens to your brain, again,
when it gets to think about something hard?”
“It gets bigger, like a
muscle,” he responded, having aced this one before.

1 comment:

amitaf said...

don't all kids find out ways to cop out irrespective of their intelligence ;) Wouldn't the real issue of praise be to ensure that children don't get an inflated sense of self (perceiving themselves to be greater than they are) and turn into egoistic, arrogant individuals? I would think the problem of turning too one-dimensional goes away with age as children mature and realize the benefits of working on things that do not come naturally to them (we all realize that at some point - or the intelligent ones anyhow ;)) Praise in moderation is probably the answer as opposed to no praise at all or praise at all costs. Kids definitely need to be appreciated and their talent nurtured and disciplined until they are able to do this themselves.