I was raised in a Filipino household and was expected to get good grades, excel in my extracurricular activities, do our chores and go to church. When I was 8, I learned to cook and started switching housecleaning and laundry duty with my sister every other week. If I misbehaved, I was spanked or got a really good “talking to” (and God forbid I ever made that mistake again). I was not rewarded by my parents for my accomplishments nor was I ever given allowance. Chores were done because it was my duty and contribution to the family.
I took piano lessons, dance lessons, and sketched and painted a lot. Even though I thought I was pretty darn good, my parents didn’t over-praise my abilities nor did I expect praise. There was always this unsaid sense of, “That was good…but I’ve seen better.” My ego was never badly bruised. It only made me want to try harder.
Now that I look back, my sister and I were spoiled. We went out to eat every Sunday after Mass. We got most of the toys that we asked for (but we didn’t ask for a lot). We drank soda, ate junk food and had fast food at least twice a week. My parents never led it on that it was a reward for being compliant kids. I just thought my parents were being nice to us. We always sought their approval and their “being nice to us” seemed to be it.
Forward to today: I have two sassy young girls who respond negatively to discipline. Our house is a disaster and the kids don’t seem to care that they can’t have friends over because of the mess. Where did I go wrong? Did I not learn anything from the way I was raised? I’m struggling with raising my kids with today’s standards and going back to the way I was raised and be that “Tiger Mom.”
The Effects of Over-Praising
One thing that’s having a negative effect on my oldest child are the little awards given at school. She gets a “success card” if a yard attendant spots her throwing away her own trash. If I ask her to throw away her snack package and she complies she’ll say, “Mom you didn’t say, ‘thank you.’” If it were me as a kid I’d say, “Sorry, I forgot about that.” Do I really need to thank my kid for cleaning up after herself — even after I had to remind her to do it? If I ask her to clean her room she’ll expect something for it or completely refuse to do it. (Yes, my kids’ room is still messy – I’m not giving in to paying her to do it.)
I’m all about recognizing kids when they have successes or at least when they try their best to succeed. I get it. Kids like praise and they respond positively to it. At the same time over-praising can give kids a sense of entitlement — they expect it for the littlest things (“Look ma, I drew three lines really, really straight. Aren’t you proud of me?”). It’s getting ridiculous. I’ll let my kids know when I’m proud of them, even if they weren’t the best. I’ll praise my kids for doing something out of the ordinary like putting away not only their plate after dinner, but everyone else’s, too. Praise is good, but it can be “too much of a good thing” as well.
Letting Them Fail
Early in elementary school, my parents had to remind me to do my homework and sit next to me to make sure I was doing everything correctly. It was about second grade when it all stopped. I distinctly remember one homework assignment in reading comprehension where I gave up and wrote, “I don’t know” on my answer sheet. My parents never looked over my assignment and when my teacher saw my answer she was highly upset (I told her I was being truthful, because I didn’t know the answer). I remember having to sit out recess to complete the assignment and find the correct answer. That was the last time I ever gave up on a question and it still carries with me to this day.
When I volunteer at my daughter’s class, I’m floored by how much hand-holding the kids need with class assignments. I know most of these kids turn in their homework corrected — I’ve helped to correct those turned-in sheets. Do parents give up and tell them the answers so they can “get on with their life” or so that their child can get the best grades with little effort? One particular time, I assisted with correcting math assignments one-on-one with the students. More often then not, the kids were looking at ME to give them the answer versus figuring it out on their own. What would the kids learn if we let them try and even fail? Do these parents even give their kid the time and tools to find the answers (without completely giving away the answer)?
We’re Raising Adults, Folks.
I know too many adults who rely on other people to give them answers or do things for them. It’s more prevalent in the generation who are now currently in college or have recently graduated college. I know of a few who still take their laundry to their parents house since they never learned how to wash their own clothes. They can’t get a job because they think just sending a resume is going to cut it… oh, and because they were told that they were “awesome and fabulous” too many times that an employer just can’t resist not hiring them. (Yes, I’m being snarky and cynical. I also think I’m just showing my age.)
I wouldn’t say that the way I was raised was the perfect formula. Yes, my parents could have been more warm and supportive of my talents beyond academics. That was the Asian way, I guess. Some of it worked and stayed with me to this day. I want my kids to be kids. It’s probably why my kids are so relaxed when it comes to house cleaning. I want them to enjoy their childhood. But at the same time, childhood is a great opportunity to establish the skills they will need when they reach adulthood. Parents, we’ve got to get it in our heads that we are raising adults. That means we can’t protect them from everything and that we must let them try to succeed by themselves. I let my kids fail, get hurt (then tell them to get up and run again), and make them ride in the car with no shoes because they were taking too long to put them on. Sure, they’ll learn from this. Now I’ve just got to get them to clean their room and not expect me to praise them for throwing away their gum wrapper.