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Posts Tagged ‘praise’

Praise Your Children and then Watch them Bully

May 30, 2012

A new report dispels the long-held theory that bullies have low self-esteem. This report maintains that bullies often come as a result of being over-praised and over-complimented.

LAVISHING children with praise and constantly pumping up self-esteem is breeding a generation of bullies, groundbreaking research reveals.

Prof Helen McGrath from RMIT, a key player in Australia’s anti-bullying policies, says mums, dads and educators have spent too much time telling kids that “darling, everything you do is wonderful”.

Rather than giving children “trophies for coming seventh, eighth and ninth”, they instead need a good old-fashioned dose of reality – including in their school reports, she said.

“The silliest thing you can tell children is, ‘If you set your mind to it, you can do anything you want’,” Prof McGrath said.

Now the State Government has flagged a comprehensive discussion on teaching methods.

Education Minister Martin Dixon said last night: “What Prof McGrath’s research has shown makes good sense and is worthy of wider debate.

“While parents and teachers want to encourage their children and students to be the best they can be, it is also important that we are genuine. A measure of self-esteem is good, but a large dose of self-respect and respect for others is even better.”

Well-meaning parents and teachers had been unwittingly contributing to the problem for 30 years through the “failed self-esteem movement”, she said.

“Parents love their children and are trying really hard to keep their self-esteem high, not realising … they’ve made the mistake of assuming that means their child can never have any failures, disappointments, sadness,” she said.

“But if we’re getting kids who are increasing in their sense of narcissism, and the need to be entitled and always get positive feedback … that is a fairly dangerous way for our community to go.”

It is fascinating to read of the Government’s clumsy response to this findings. They want teachers to start being “genuine” with the2ir students. Great idea! Now why didn’t I think of that?

It is quite a simple interpretation to think that bullies are just often children with overfed egos. The mistake this report seems to make is that it assumes that children grow to believe the messages that these parents send. The assumption is that these kids grow up thinking they can achieve anything they want (whether they have natural ability or otherwise).

This is not my experience. My experience tells me that such children weigh up the compliments and positivity they get from home with some of the negative talk they get outside, and it confuses them. Children who are constantly told how beautiful they are at home, are then called “ugly” and “fat” in the schoolyard. This mixture of messages makes them feel terrible insecure. Are their parents liars? Are their school friends just being cruel, or do they have a point?

So indeed, I do believe such children have low self-esteem. The realisation that some of the messages being sent from home are not shared by the world outside doesn’t inflate their ego, but rather, confuses them and makes them less trustworthy of others.

The best depiction of a bully (or I should say, “bullies”) comes from Mike Feurstein’s classic movie “How to Unmake a Bully“. Instead of portraying the bully as a person that has no characteristics that other children can related to, Feurstein paints him as a lost child, bullied himself in the past, without a undesratnding of other options and modes for letting off steam.

The beauty about the film is that after watching it, my students gain an appreciation and a unserdtanding not only for the victim but also for the bully himself.

 

 

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Kids Don’t Need Gold Stars

May 11, 2012

In my opinion, the look that children give when they receive a gold star is misleading. Sure, they look excited, but that excitement is sometimes relative. In truth, kids don’t need gold stars and essentially, that is not what they are after when they produce good work.

What they really want is something – anything. They want a compliment, a smile, a gesture that will make them feel better about themselves. School can be such an overwhelming place. Teachers are so good at being critical. Critical of the way students dress, sit, answer back, talk, the speed in which they work, the neatness of their handwriting etc. The gold star doesn’t just signify an achievement of sorts, it breaks the cycle of criticism and balances the ledger somewhat.

As teachers, we need to be aware that our students crave our acceptance and approval. They may superficially be doing this by trying to earn a gold star, but essentially, all they really want is a confidence boost.

I enjoyed the tips for showing recognition to students by bestselling author and confessed ‘gold star junkie’, Gretchen Rubin:

1. Be specific. Vague praise doesn’t make much of an impression.

2. Find a way to praise sincerely. It’s a rare situation where you can’t identify something that you honestly find praiseworthy. “Striking” is one of my favorite fudge adjectives.

3. Never offer praise and ask for a favor in the same conversation. It makes the praise seem like a set-up.

4. Praise process, not outcome.This particularly relevant with children. It’s more helpful to praise effort, diligence, persistence, and imagination than a grade or milestone.

5. Look for something less obvious to praise – a more obscure accomplishment or quality that a person hasn’t heard praised many times before; help people identify strengths they didn’t realize they had. Or praise a person for something that he or she does day after day, without recognition. Show that you appreciate the fact that the coffee’s always made, that the report is never late. It’s a sad fact of human nature: those who are the most reliable are the most easily taken for granted.

6. Don’t hesitate to praise people who get a lot of praise already. Perhaps counter-intuitively, even people who get constant praise – or perhaps especially people who get constant praise – crave praise. Is this because praiseworthy people are often insecure? Does getting praise lead to an addiction to more praise? Or – and this is my current hypothesis – does constant praise indicate constant evaluation, and constant evaluation leads to a craving for praise?

7. Praise people behind their backs. The praised person usually hears about the praise, and behind-the-back praise seems more sincere than face-to-face praise. Also, always pass along the behind-the-back praise that you hear. This is one of my favorite things to do!


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