‘ we often hear these days that we’ve produced a generation of young people who can’t get through the day without an award. They expect success because they’re special, not because they’ve worked hard. Is this true? Have we inadvertently done something to hold back our students? Carol Dweck
I read this a while ago and I thought ‘holy shit’. Well at first I bristled and thought ‘bugger off! Bloody old people whinging again’ because I somehow think I’m still young and hip and anything aimed at young people is aimed at me. And then I realised I’m one of the old people now. How the hell did that happen?? I have been known to utter the phrase ‘kids today….’ You know it’s all downhill when that passes your lips.
Anyways, this generational wars crap has been going on for…. Generations. Every generation has copped it form the generation before them. I’m sure my generation (which to be honest I have no freaking idea which one I actually belong to. Y? X? Purple Monkey Dishwasher?) was classed as lazy and spoiled. Young upstarts if you will. Wanting everything to happen yesterday. But I’m sure my parents’ generation were classed as unruly and rude, and the generation before that uncaring and tough. We love to slap on labels, don’t we? And generalise.
But. These kids today. Has there been a shift? Have we gone too far in the other direction? Instead of giving tough love, we give love out in bucketfulls. For everything and anything. And we teach kids that everyone’s a winner. But, let’s be honest. They’re not. Sometimes we win, and sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we have to watch someone do better than us, succeed where we might need to work a bit harder. And now we’re not happy with that.
When I played sports, there were awards at the end of the year. Best and Fairest, MVP all that stuff. And it was given to one child who was voted out of the others and that was that. Sometimes we all got participation trophies, but that one child would then receive the additional trophy on top. And everyone seemed fine with it. But now, all kids are given pats on the head for breathing, trophies and ribbons handed out to all. And if they don’t get it? Well, cue meltdowns and tears. From parents too.
It’s a trend I’ve seen become more apparent in my role. People getting upset and angry if their child isn’t praised and acknowledged x amount of times. Comparing how many times one child gets an award relative to another, and if all children aren’t equally awarded, then that’s cause to unleash a torrent of abuse. And now that my biggest cherub is in school, I’m interested to see it from the other side of the fence (the parent side. Will I become a psycho hose-beast too?).
And there is nothing wrong with praise and acknowledgement. Nothing at all! But perhaps we need to be reviewing what we’re praising and how we’re praising. It shouldn’t become an expectation, it should be recognition at appropriate times. Instead of telling our kids how special and wonderful they are, should we be telling them how great their effort is, and that they are trying their best and that is fantastic? While it sucks balls to see your child upset and to miss out on something, maybe the bigger picture is that it’s healthy and ok for them to not achieve 100% success all the time. Focusing on the effort rather than the end result. We’re not bad people for allowing our children to experience challenges. Because, what is the alternative? What are we setting them up for in the future?
What do you think about this notion of a ‘soft’ generation? Do you think they’re praised and rewarded too much? Or should we stop being hard asses and shower them with pep?