I was over at Strollerderby today reading new stuff and came upon Sense of Entitlement? Blame Mr. Rogers!. Honestly, it was the picture of Mr. Rogers that really drew me in. I’ve always thought that Mr. Rogers was a bit on the creepy side…but that’s not really the point of all this.
Anyway, the discussion was about children being coddled and congratulated for being special just the way they are.
I grew up in the “special snowflake” generation. Mine is the group who expects pats on the backs for doing our job correctly and require constant positive reinforcement and praise or our heads will explode and we will turn into puddles of icky greenish goo.
I totally blame this phenomenon on our well meaning parents. Ok, so maybe “blame” is a bit harsh. The idea that we must have tons of self esteem was drilled into their heads. All of the parenting books warned about the dangers of low self esteem and how best to avoid said dangers. So, they meant well, but their constant praise turned into my generation’s crack.
And man, watch out when we don’t get our fix.
Now, my “special snowflake” generation is making babies. And we’re passing our addiction on to the next generation. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander, right?
How many toddlers have you seen be praised for nothing? I’m talking the over-the-top “you’re the best baby in the world because you pooped in your diaper” type of praise.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I think that Cara is AMAZING with a really amazingly large shiny A. Want to see a picture? How about some home movies?
But, we don’t tell her that she’s the best walker in the world. Because, well, she’s not. She’s getting better, but she’s not the best yet. Gotta give her a goal, right?
I don’t want to give you the idea that we never praise her, because that’s just not true. But, we are judicious about when we give praise.
Think back to when you were in school. If you always received an A no matter what, that A would become a pretty cheap reward wouldn’t it? It’s a lot like when kids get trophies for just being on the team. When even the kid from the sucky team who only warmed the bench gets a trophy, it makes the meaning of the trophy pointless.
All this empty praise doesn’t help our kids; it hurts them. I don’t know about you, but none of my college professors ever gave me an A for just being there. And, I definitely never had a boss who gave me a raise for just doing my job.
Somewhere along the way, we’ve lowered our standards to ensure that everyone succeeds and that no one “feels bad”. Shouldn’t we actually be setting the bar high and expecting our kids to achieve to that high standard? Because when we throw around praise and rewards for things our children are supposed to do anyway, we are creating praise hungry little demons.
Demons who will eventually be unleashed upon the world to make all who inhabit it praise and reward them. Poor world.
So, to my “special snowflake” generation, when little Johnny cleans his room (because he’s supposed to) restrain yourself from buying him the bigwheels. A “thank you for cleaning your room” is plenty.
When little Sally gets ninth place out of ten, don’t tell her that she’s the best in the world. She’s not; she knows that. You’re lying to her and she knows that too. “Better luck next time” would be much more appropriate.
That way, when Johnny and Sally actually do something fucking amazing, you can tell them that…and they’ll believe you because it will be the truth.
Now, I’m off to buy Cara a pony for being the smartest eight month old on the planet.