It is now clear the parents, in an effort to “inoculate” their children against all the uncertain- ties and challenges of today’s demanding and competitive world, over praise their children. the attempt on the part of parents is to bolster their kids’ self-esteem, thus preparing them for the tough life they may face in the years to come. the problem is that it often backfires! children who are over-praised begin to shy away from engaging in activities where their suc- cess is not certain. they also tend to slack off, thus lowering their performance, because they begin to feel that, if they are as “good” as their parents say, they don’t have to try as hard. other kids begin to feel that failure is so abhorrent in their family that it can’t even be men- tioned, which means they “play it safe” by not trying things too far out of their comfort zone or where they might not be as likely to succeed. the whole idea of “trial-and-error” seems
to go out the window. the key to praising children is to keep it brief and make it specific. For example, a parent might simply say, “that was the best paper!” and not mention specific aspects of that paper, like the clever opening or or the clear recitation of facts or the way the ideas flowed or the way it caught your attention at the beginning. At camp counselors should praise kids in specific ways–like what it was about the way they helped one another during clean-up; or how they cooperated when they came up with a skit for the talent show; or how they encouraged other in the game they played. the other thing is that children appreci-
ate honesty. they might not like hearing about their faults or short-comings, but they know when they did something wrong or didn’t perform well, and pretending otherwise only makes children feel like they can’t trust us to tell them the truth. that truth can be delivered in a sensitive way, but it needs to be delivered if campers are going to benefit from their mistakes. After all, what is the point of making mistakes if we can’t help children learn from them?!