Give Praise Sparingly

Consider the book Nurture Shock where the concept of “Raise children’s self-esteem by praising them constantly” is debunked. According to Carol Dweck’s study at Columbia University praise may not be the panacea at all because it made students less risk taking and fearful of committing mistakes. This is a learning-reaction to that

1. First, I learnt that what experts used to say as panacea for students to succeed is now a hoax. If in the 1970s and 1980s, children’s self-esteem were raised by praising them constantly, today calls for a new yardstick. Research evidence of more than 200 studies suggests that more praise merely resulted to bloated egos. Second, I find Dweck’s finding unsurprising, such that, kids who exert consistent efforts outsmart the ‘smart’ or the innately intelligent ones. Weren’t they really smart after all? And third, I learnt that the author does not mean do not praise kids at all, but praise moderately and appropriately. Excessive praise, according to Standfor scholars, backfires into students becoming less persistent in tasks, more eye-checking with the teacher, and using more inflected speech.

2. I do not understand clearly yet why is there a sudden shift of perspective about praise. Could this be a matter of what Thomas Kuhn called the validity of a thesis or scientific conjectures is established by its irrefutability? Could this stem from the intergenerational categorisation: baby boomers, generation X, Y, and Z, i.e., each is characterised by unique traits and must be dealt with a unique approach? I do not understand, yet, the context where too much praise can produce students who avoid risks and lack autonomy.

3. I used to think that praise could boost one’s confidence, that the praise “I believe in you” is the antidote to reticent and laidback children, and that it is all right to create a culture of high expectations for children vis-a-vis stuffing them with praises as some sort of scaffold. But then I realised that praising children excessively may bloat one’s ego too much; that “I believe in you” phrases can be used sparingly to extract its maximizing effect; and that putting students into high pressure environment at an early stage could rob them off early of their childhood. There is such things as ‘level-appropriate’ and ‘age-appropriate’ teaching-learning.

4. I do not see clearly how the research of psychologist Carol Dweck from Columbia University and the article “The Inverse Power of Praise” published by Po Bronson  and Ashley Marryman could impact directly the state of Filipino parents in children? Is the concept of withholding praise applicable to a society and culture, like ours? Or must there be a different approach? Typically, a Filipino’s reaction towards praise is a ‘hindi naman’ or a ‘medyo’ lang.

5. A good study would probably be an experimental one, where one group will be given moderate levels of praise, while the other will not be given anything at all. This is to prove the hypothesis, “Too much praise can be bad.” Another one would probably be a study focused on the the effects of praise to academically inclined students or the grade conscious (GC). Semi-structured interview or focused group discussion can be conducted before them to find out if praise have made them fearful of committing mistake, less risk-taking, used inflected speech (answers have intonation of questions) too often, very competitive, and resort to cheating, if needed. That could be aptly titled, “The Making of a Grade Conscious and How Teachers Play as the Culprit: What Excessive Praises Can Do?”

6. I learnt from this article that contextualising praise is very important, but taking the study’s implication as a god is a form of neocolonialism. Their context is different from ours. New York is different from Manila; Manila’s is slightly different from Palawan. The amount of praise to give may still be relative to the context. The collective space where New Yorker children live may be enough to boost their confidence, compared to children here, who because of poverty, may not have that confidence in the first place.

I learnt also that this may not be a question of praise at all, but a question of grading in the context of Philippine schools. Here, the need for praise stems not to measure learning and achievement but to increase a grade in order for a child to pass. To say that a child gets 75 or 95 makes no difference if the child is motivated to get that grade more than to learn a concept or  a skill. What motivates that praise? we should be keen with our intention, often we miss out on learning because the grade is a god-panacaea. Teach to grade or Teach to learn?

If we look into grades as motivation of giving praise, we see that grades have values because of their necessity as a driver for students to strive inside the classroom. Unfortunately, even if tons of studies suggest its demeaning and dehumanising effect to the child, its parting the-red-sea tendency to create social division in the class: the brainy and the imbecile, schools have not significantly reformed itself. Even the K+12 has numerical value still, when the letter grade could be use to measure achievement not in a whole set skill but specific skills a child may need to focus on at a particular moment of his learning and development.



A critique to an article entitled The Me Generation, where the author contends based on a study that children and teenagers nowadays are unlike the previous generations. They ‘seem to be rude, but are actually polite. And that’s not even a flinch of irony.’

  1. I learned some concepts the author presented about today’s children—That children and teenagers (1) are becoming spoiled, rude, and selfish, expecting but never trying their best; (2) believe that they deserve their fair share, even if it may mean getting more than other people; and finally, (3) seems rude on the surface, but is perfectly polite, even that direct opposite is not an irony.
  2. I do not understand well the intention of the author. Probably, s/he’s bridging the intergenerational gap. Is s/he predisposed to make his/her readers understand the children today? If so, she appeared to have contradicted him/herself in a number of times. More so, I do not understand that after the flesh-whipping descriptions clouted in statistics, s/he proceeded by telling, it is not the Gen Me’ers fault, but the prevailing culture. Prevailing culture? I do not understand why s/he has to deconstruct the Gen Me’ers first, yet to build it up again. Is this what Twenge calls, ‘kids raised on a diet of self-esteem’?
  3. I used to think that Britney has simply wasted here life, that children today just lacked spending quality time and love from their parents, and that they lacked grit and resiliency in face of adversity. But then I realised that although Britney played the victim role with all her divorces, she manifests a great and firm resolve, no matter what it takes, to achieve her priority, i.e., “Myself, my husband, and starting a family.” She’s very certain about what she wants in life; and she ought to get it.  I realised that children today might have missed on spending quality time with their parents, but they were raised in silver platter. Good enough to build that ‘army of little narcissists.’ And finally, I realised that  although children today lack grit and resiliency, or patience, that is because there is a gap between the adults’ perception of who they are and where they should be, and the trend that leads this children to their future, they are the generation who are certain of what they want to do, no matter how the rest perceive it otherwise. Fact of the matter is, even the adults do not understand that world. That world they themselves created.
  4. I do not understand why the author call this generation as the entitlement generation? Why s/he blamed the prevailing culture for raising these kind of kids? Couldn’t all this be an offshoot of what happened to the lives of those who were born in the 1950-60s? In fact, what that generation didn’t own to lead, ricochet back at them. The author presented Gen Me’ers swinging on both extreme ends of a pendulum, what could have led to this seemingly bipolaric tendecies?
  5. On one hand, I think it will be important to explore the lives of artists who made it when they were still young like Britney Spears, Aliyah, Backstreet Boys, and the more contemporary Paris Hilton, Lady Gaga,  and the contoversial “tweaker” Miley Cyrus. It will be helpful to look at the context where they grew up, who were their influences, and the quality of their relationships with the adults surrounding them, especially their parents. On the other hand, I am also interested in documenting how the parents of the Gen Me’ers perceived where their parenting have gone wrong, and how the Gen Me’ers perceived where their parents have gone wrong in raising them up. This is to build upon an awareness that probably it is not merely about mass media or pop culture, but the lack or absence of quality time between parents and the children. Proof to this will be the answer to this question: “When was the last time that you dine with your family together on one table, with the kids not opening their iPhones or iPads?”
  6. Going back to the questions I have in my mind, I think the blame game won’t get into a halt unless we understand the context where the children born between 1970s-2000s. Isn’t that the generation where fathers left their families to seek greener pasteurs abroad; women (single or not) began climbing the corporate ladder; children left either with an un-schooled yaya or age-of-war-raised grandparents; and to make matters worse, children jammed with 49 others inside a humid room with a greying old teacher who failed to ride into the waves of change, favors a hefty upper 10% of the class? What happends to the 90%? And we wonder why there are more morons in our society, why the ‘A’ students work for the ‘C’ students, and ‘B’ for the government, why gays are multiplying faster, and why ironically we are seated where we are, but actually wanting another place? According to the principle of brain plasticity, what you do not use, you lose. In the case of this, when the previous generation, in hopes to find a better life, sacrificed quality time with their children, they lost that group of young people whom today are called, the Gen Me’er, or aptly, the Selfie generation.