I received a link to a very long article in The Atlantic early one morning. It was so long that it turned me off, save for the very compelling title: “How to Land Your Kid in Therapy“. A lot of people think that there is a stigma when one one goes to therapy or “goes to see the shrink”.
For a parent whose kid is in therapy, let me say that I learned so much more about him in particular, and parenting in general. The fact that he does therapy opened doors for me to ask more questions and seek answers about raising children; which is why when this (lengthy!) article came to me, I chose to take time to read it. (Not that I *think* I’m not being defensive; in fact, I *think* that everyone should go to therapy at some point or another. Yes, really.)In the past few years that P’s been in (big) school, I’ve had a chance to widen my circle of co-parents. I’ve seen totally Sikorsky parents and some very negligent ones. This particular article was written by a therapist and mother. Surprised that she sees happy contented children (as opposed to those with “issues”), she investigates further.
I shared the article as well with some educators and child psychologists I know. Several of them have mentioned that a lot of the children of today show what is called “SELF-ENTITLEMENT”. This characteristic has come about after studies have taught parents to not criticize their children (“You got a low grade? Boy you must not be listening in class!”) but instead, to praise them (“Good job!” or “You’re so smart!”).
Po Bronson’s Nurture Shock and the article he wrote for NY Mag, The Power (And Peril) of Praise, made so much sense to me! It warns us about over-praising. I don’t know if you’ve people give some silly praise, like, “oh, good job, baby! Your tooth fell out!” I mean, come on, right, the tooth will EVENTUALLY fall off whether or not effort was involved!
I guess what I am saying is that parenting is a conscious effort. I have had so many instances that I don’t think of what I say, as long as I like what my kid does, I am on auto pilot: “great work, K!” or “you are a good boy, P!”. Doesn’t work that way. Apparently some studies show that there are different effects when you encourage the effort as opposed to praising the act.
For example, it might be better to say, “You worked really hard to get that grade!” instead of, “Wow, you’re so smart!” What we’re trying to do is to let our kids understand that to get something, they need to work for it, and yes, failure can be part of the equation. What is important is that they know what to do when they’ve fallen.
So many parents, me included, would like to shield their kids from sadness, grief, failure. But these things are part of life that help one become stronger. (As my SIL so aptly puts it in her “fave quote” in Facebook: The success of a person is not in never failing, but in standing up every time he falls.)
My friend, Didi Manahan, an educator, has this to say –
For two years now, through the book of Po Bronson, I finally came upon the psychology of the self-entitled child. It’s a real phenomenon that I first experienced with young adults.
I do understand that behind the misguided parenting is a desire to be a good parent. Parents and teachers throughout the ages have taken good psychological theories and misinterpret what these might imply in our lives. There is absolutely nothing wrong with developing self-esteem. But how do you develop self-esteem? By giving false praise or accurate feedback? By hugging a child who failed and saying it’s okay or following that up by planning and implementing how to do better? There is nothing wrong with allowing a child choice. But what kind of choices do with allow? Do we allow children choice when there is danger involved, a consequence of poor health, when there is actually no choice, when the choice is against family/church values?
I believe that parenting is a continuous conscious effortand it is something that we need to be aware of.