Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, says highly educated parents and academic schools are turning out a generation of children with perfect academic records but who later struggle at university and in their careers.
She says “The idea that children have to have a string of A grades is a terrible thing. There is a lot of parental influence on that perfectionism. In the past few generations we have seen the emergence of highly educated mothers… they schedule all these activities and advocate for the child.”
In the States parents are even calling up employers asking why their child didn’t get a promotion or a brilliant appraisal.
She says she would have been humiliated if her parents had done that for her but now children see that as their parents being supportive. This is a whole new world. I’m not sure my parents really knew what my jobs were all about and would never have considered ringing my bosses.
These are the children who often end up living with their parents because they never have had the chance to make decisions – or make mistakes! They don’t stick at a job, move back home – because they can’t cope with the real world.
Why are this generation less resilient?
Dweck thinks it’s because parents give their children excessive and unrealistic praise. I would also include schools in that as they put in place misguided policies about how work is marked .
Rather than praise kids for their intelligence and talent they should be praised for perseverance, focus, and effort.
Parents should also allow their children to make their own decisions, even if they make a mistake.
Her research with children aged 1 to 3 into how their mothers praised them found that giving praise for focus and effort e.g. saying “good effort, good try, I like the way you tried something new” was linked to higher scores in maths and language at 9 years of age and to a willingness to try harder at problem solving.
So don’t praise kids for doing easy things or when they don’t really put any effort into a task. And don’t say “try harder” because that’s just nagging!
So if you’re a helicopter parent – back off and re-assess how you praise your chldren.