I had an interesting chat with my children this morning. It’s the school holidays and I decided to take them out for a cafe breakfast and catch up over hot chocolate. I asked them what the the best and worst parts of school have been. Both told me that the worst part is when they get things wrong. Both feel anxious at the prospect of not ‘getting it right’ and it got me thinking.
My generation of parents is so praise-driven – often to the point of absurdity. We are so afraid of the dreaded “low self-esteem” that we have become a generation of parents who praise mediocrity. They try to catch a ball, but miss and we shout “Great job!” The thing is, it wasn’t a great job. Sure, it was a good try, but great? Nope. Our kids get certificates for participation, they get medals for giving it a go. All lovely ideas, in theory, but in my mind, a sure-fire way to ensure our kids will never achieve their potential. If we tell them they are brilliant when they are average, will they ever aspire to true greatness? Will they even know they have it in them.
Look on the wall of any kindergarten classroom and you’ll find a list of rules like this:
From the minute they enter the school system, our kids are taught how to be good, play fair, be nice. It’s wonderful and delightful and, well, unrealistic.
I was the mother who mirrored those rules at home. I made damned sure my children said please and thank-you. I always facilitated sharing and turn-taking. We spoke about weapon-words and how to ask for things nicely and how snatching toys was bad. When my children started to fight with one another, I always jumped right in and mediated so they could learn that it’s not necessary to be mean. We did a lot of role-playing.
How very naive. Not to mention short-sighted.
“Why?”, you ask.