POC Blog

The random technotheolosophical blogging of Reid S. Monaghan

Praise the Child, Spoil the Child

New York Magazine has an interesting study on the effects of "over-praising" your kids to the point where they are afraid to try anything, work hard, take risks...you can read it here.

I agree with most of it.  For instance, this type of stuff is ridiculous:

Since the 1969 publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which Nathaniel Branden opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement with broad societal effects. Anything potentially damaging to kids’ self-esteem was axed. Competitions were frowned upon. Soccer coaches stopped counting goals and handed out trophies to everyone. Teachers threw out their red pencils. Criticism was replaced with ubiquitous, even undeserved, praise.

We know that esteeming the self, self-exaltation, etc. is nothing more than veiled pride.  The soul's gaze need be turned outward not upon itself in order to find life.  Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes by John Piper:

We are all starved for the Glory of God, not self.  No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem.  Why do we go?  Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self.  Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of the mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image?  It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world. 

John Piper, Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ, (Wheaton:IL, Crossway books 2001) 21. 

Self obsession is a particularly terrible form of idolatry...for in trying to think so highly of ourselves, we realize that we fall so short.  When you think you suck and are trying to find self-esteem the stifling prison that forms is unbearable.  We need to gospel to escape such self-inflicted straight jackets.

The article is not completely down on praising your children, but reminds that all praise is not equal.  Vain and empty praise stultifies.

But all praise is not equal—and, as Dweck demonstrated, the effects of praise can vary significantly depending on the praise given. To be effective, researchers have found, praise needs to be specific. (The hockey players were specifically complimented on the number of times they checked an opponent.) Sincerity of praise is also crucial. Just as we can sniff out the true meaning of a backhanded compliment or a disingenuous apology, children, too, scrutinize praise for hidden agendas. Only young children—under the age of 7—take praise at face value: Older children are just as suspicious of it as adults.

One last quote about the value of persistence and perseverance.

“A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence, because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

Old School people simply called this “spoiling the kids”

From a worldview perspective the article falls way short of dealing with humans as humans.  The worldview of the article is completely reductionistic when viewing people. It is almost like the parents view their kids as a computational, evolutionary pleasure seeking meat machines that you use different inputs in order to manipulate to the right outcomes. This is the overarching view of the article – whether to praise or not praise – their view of human beings is still pretty mechanistic.

Scripture teaches the value of perseverance, suffering, and challenge to the human soul. It teaches us to discipline kids, not spoil them. It teaches us to have them live for different treasure than the praise of men or the rewards they are given. A lot of my aversion to buying our kids so much stuff is that I fear them not seeing the struggle of life, not be broken and dependent on the gospel of grace and thereby losing their souls to this trivial American world of which we are a part.