Though we need to take responsibility for how we turn out as people, undoubtedly, our parents are usually the root cause of how we interact with the world, from a very early age. There was a girl in my school who nobody really liked because she was so full of herself. To protect her identity, let us just call her Lily. She had this disdainful air about her because things came too easily. I felt almost sorry for her because she was so spoilt as a child that nothing really excited her. Too much of a good thing, can be a bad thing, as the saying goes.
When my class had a school excursion, one of the stops was at a local theme park, and I absolutely could not wait to get out there and try the rides. One of our classmates’ mothers had fixed up special passes for us, since she worked there. We were all really excited when we arrived, with the exception of Lily. She said ungratefully, “It’s so small. This is nothing compared to Disneyland!” Lily was fairly oblivious to the way she was. She was born into the lap of luxury and chauffeur driven to school every day and she did not appreciate the value of things. She was not as independent as her peers because she rarely did anything on her own. Every problem in her life seemed to be solved by someone else, and any latest gadget she wanted was given to her on a silver plate.
When she started failing her subjects, that’s when her parents stepped in, to make some drastic changes to her life. They suddenly cut off her allowance. Despite the fact everyone thought this would finally help her ‘wake up’ and stop feeling like the world owed her something, I still felt sorry for this girl. In my humble opinion, her parents should have thought to disciplin their daughter long ago because she had a bad attitude, rather than just bad grades. And it was not her fault she was so spoilt. She had grown up with parents who indulged her every wish and now suddenly without word or warning, withdrawn their approval of her as well as all the luxury ‘benefits’ that went with it. Lily did not adjust well to her new circumstances. She was simply not prepared for this sudden change in her lifestyle. However, in the long run, it did make her more independent and she eventually became more sociable and less conceited.
I realise that any extreme in life is not healthy. It is not good to spoil a child to a point that they cannot deal with not having things their way. Interestingly, this also applies to how much praise a child gets. According to an article from NBC news online, Dr Ruth Peters explained how new research suggests that complimenting children in certain ways may set them up to become ‘praise junkies’ because they will start searching for approval and validation on everything that they do instead of developing an internal barometer for self-esteem and feelings of accomplishment and achievement. A friend of mine who has a three year old was telling me all about the dangers of raising ‘praise junkies’ because she had seen parents who praised their children to a point that their kids became less motivated to try so hard because whatever they did, seemed good enough.
Once, her three-year old daughter was on the floor of her bedroom doing a puzzle and there were six parts to it. When she completed the first part, her daughter clapped her hands together congratulating herself “See what I did!! Mommy, look here!” My friend’s instinctive reaction was to praise her but she held back saying, “Well, you’re actually not finished yet. There’s another five parts to it dear.” That made her daughter go back to the task of completing the whole puzzle and only then, did her mother praise her for a job well done. A study from the Department of Psychology at Columbia University in New York City discovered that, what children are praised for makes a significant difference in how they later fare when faced with challenges or perceived failures.
For instance, encouraging a child for their efforts seemed to be more productive than praising them for innate characteristics they had no control over, like being beautiful or smart because they may feel a need to preserve this image of themselves. According to research by Dr Carol Dweck, a professor at Columbia University, she said that praise, can hamper their level of risk-taking as they may choose less challenging tasks in the future to avoid making mistakes. So, if you have children, it can backfire when you overdo the praise. Encouragement uses a slightly different lingo. For instance, if your child came in first in a race, instead of saying, “You’re a born winner. I’m so proud you got the gold”, perhaps it might be better to say (so that your children keep challenging themselves), “It was all that hard work that paid off. Well done!”