Intellectual Praise

Why You Shouldn’t Heap Intellectual Praise On Your Children

I bet you have one mom, at the very least, in your circle who loves to heap intellectual praise on her children. Let’s be clear on something first, we’re not here to judge them. We respect individuality. It’s a natural thing to want to make our children feel loved and appreciated. Plus, we don’t have a universal rule (or a homologized action) as to how moms should treat their kids. If we do, that would have been a global law a long time ago.

But here’s the thing, and this is one is a real cliché but the truth of it cannot be ignored, anything that’s done in excess is bad. A friend of mine asked me, “How much is too much?” There is no specific table that states that a specific amount of achievement should have a specific of praise. That’s absurd.

What works for me is this simple rule: I don’t praise my kids on something that they should be doing; something that’s expected of them. I appreciate the result now that they’re older because, in my case, it works. What do I mean by this? If my son gets an A in Algebra, I say “congratulations!” But, that’s about it. I never say, “you’re the best amongst all your classmates!” or “you’re so amazing and a genius!” Why? A student’s job is to get good grades, or at least to pass. That’s not being a genius. That’s being a student.

That’s different from prodding your child to excel further or belittling their effort. I don’t say, “Well, what’s an A, really? It’s not an A+” You recognize the effort, but you don’t aggrandize it. They did a study about inflated praises and the results suggest that these kinds of congratulations are not good for kids.


Why too much intellectual praise is not good 

They will become complacent

Complacency is the killer of creativity and personal growth. Praising kids too much will make them feel that they are already good or even the best. Eventually, they will lose that drive because why should they strive for the best when they already are, right? They will not put as much effort, and will lose that ability to evolve into something better. But the hard truth is that there is always someone better than even the best. There is always a learning curve for everyone.

They will expect it from others

Reality check: you cannot ask your child’s future boss to praise him/her for every single task done right. You cannot control your child’s future boss’ attitude towards him/her. Your son and daughter’s work will get criticized, and as working adults, we know this for a fact. They might construe this as a personal attack rather than something that’s job-related. They will expect the same instant barrage of praise from others, and if they don’t get it all the time, they might feel inadequate and unvalued. Some might even question their abilities. Others might even wonder, “So I’m not really the best like what my mom kept telling me when I was younger.”

They will become arrogant

There is a tendency for people who think of themselves as great to become arrogant. If you keep inflating your children’s ego, there is a big chance that he/she will end up having a strong sense of arrogance and self-importance. Having a sense of superiority (in one or all aspects of life) towards others can be crippling, especially the illusion of it. It has been said time and again that hubris is the downfall of anyone. It can make a person treat others unkindly, and this is one factor that’s far too hard to modify. You can always be great at anything, but having an exemplary character is something else. I think, Bruce Nordstrom (grandson of Nordstrom’s founder Bruce A. Nordstrom) said it best: “We can hire nice people and teach them to sell, but we can’t hire salespeople and teach them to be nice.”

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