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February 27, 2017

Praise Less, Challenge More

“Having once decided to achieve a certain task, achieve it at all costs of tedium and distaste. The gain in self-confidence of having accomplished a tiresome labor is immense.”
(Thomas Arnold Bennett)

Starting in the late 1960s, studies showed kids who demonstrated high self-esteem also demonstrated high levels of accomplishment. So, we all figured we should start praising kids into feeling good about themselves, and protecting kids from failures so they won’t feel bad about themselves. Do this praising and protecting enough, we figured, and kids will start improving their performance.

This ended up becoming a crystal clear example of putting the cart before the horse. As it turns out, the reason accomplished kids felt better about themselves was mainly because of their accomplishments. We’re not talking about the small number of kids winning sports events and spelling bees; self-esteem is not just for those in 1st Place. What we’re talking about here are the accomplishments available to almost anyone:

• cooking a meal
• figuring out a math problem
• building a fort
• waking themselves up on time
• confronting a bully on behalf of a friend
• washing their own clothes
• running a lemonade stand, or a paper route, or a lawn care business, or a babysitting schedule

We cannot praise our kids into accomplishment. We can, however, introduce them to challenges. Then, as they struggle to accomplish things, they can start to praise themselves.

Peace begins with pause,

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