Many feel that we are raising a generation of entitled children worse than ever before. We give constant praise for mediocrity and fear damaging our children’s self-esteem if we are honest. But have we gone too far?
Last week, one of my friends wrote on Facebook “my son just received a trophy for participating in a chess tournament that he didn’t participate in because he was sick”. One reply said, “Next time, they will hand you a trophy when you sign up”. This was my sentiment exactly. What on earth were they thinking? What message does this send our children? I see only two possibilities: 1) they think they’re wonderful and great and are proud of themselves, even when it’s not indicated, or 2) they realize everyone who signs up gets a trophy, and therefore realize that it is completely meaningless.
Why are we so afraid to let our children fail sometimes, perhaps not be the best at everything? In the real world, everyone has strengths and weaknesses, are good at some things and not at others. This is NORMAL. In my humble opinion, we are doing more damage than good. Praise when praise is appropriate, for a job well done or even for a great effort. But don’t tell your child that they’re good at everything, and it’s okay to tell them the truth when they’re not. Nobody is the best at everything, and everyone needs to know how to face disappointment sometimes.
My son happens to be a great soccer player. He plays on a competitive team, which is difficult to get chosen for. But he’s not the best player on his team, and I make sure he knows it. I think this motivates him. I praise him when he plays well, makes a good play, has a great game, and the like, but I also let him know when he isn’t doing his best. I recently said to him after a practice, “What happened today? You didn’t look so good doing that drill. I think you need to practice that.” He replied, “Stop it, Mom, that makes me feel bad.” I then said, “Oh, I don’t mean to make you feel bad, rather I’m hoping you will work harder. But you don’t really want me to be that mom who tells you that you look great all the time, even when you really don’t, do you?” And I was so proud when he said, “No”.
Here are a few tips to help ensure your kids won’t feel entitled:
1) Praise only when praise is deserved, when your child has done something above and beyond the expectations, or something extremely challenging for them
2) Be kindly honest when your child has fallen short or needs to work harder
3) Point out BOTH your child’s strengths AND weaknesses regularly
4) Don’t interfere with coaches and teachers. Let your child sit on the bench, if that’s what the coach wants, or play a different position than where you’d like to see him. Let your child get the grade he earned.
5) Don’t give your child everything he/she wants. Make them wait for a special occasion, earn it with chores, or by saving their own money