The Wussification of America

March 5, 2010 | NeW Staff

When did it become standard practice to award trophies to children just because they showed up?

The Washington Post’s George F. Will delivers several informational “nuggets” to his readers in yesterday’s How to Ruin a Child: Too Much Esteem, too Little Sleep Op-Ed. Will pulls from NutureShock: New Thinking About Children by researchers Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman. Bronson and Merryman explicate the dangers of supplying children with too much praise in addition to encouraging longer school days with increasingly difficult class material. 

According to Merryman and Bronson:

Children incessantly praised for their intelligence (often by parents who are really praising themselves) often underrate the importance of effort. Children who open their lunchboxes and find mothers’ handwritten notes telling them how amazingly bright they are tend to falter when they encounter academic difficulties.

And guess what? Thats not even the worst of it. By over loading children with praise, children are actually more prone to:

…cheating because they have not developed strategies for coping with failure.

Children who are subjected to such parental behavior are actually at a disadvantage. Rather then becoming more confident, they become risk-adverse in order to preserve their reputations (Brongson & Merryman, 2009). Thus, challenges are avoided because the fear of failure outweighs the ability to perform in uncertain situations. The wussification of America at its finest. 

Will concludes his Op-Ed by touching on the lack of sleep that children are often forced to make due with, attributed to school days that start too early. Will asserts that children who do not receive the recommended amount of sleep notice a decrease in IQ points and increase in body weight. Just what we need…a generation of increasingly sleep deprived, unhealthy, risk-adverse children. The future sounds bright!

It’s important to acknowledge and award children who perform well in school, sports, or life. However, by over-praising children we actually diminish the value of the praise we give. When a child actually does something extraordinary, the praise they receive won’t mean much when they get it all the time. It may be difficult not to praise your children frequently, but at the very least think about what you might say before you say it. Our children shouldn’t be built up so much they are fearful of failure. That is an awful way to go through life. It is absolutely possible to love unconditionally, and praise where it is warranted.
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