By Voula Martin
November 14, 2011
I don’t like helicopter parenting, kids getting a medal just for participating, or college students having their parents call the professor for them when they are sad about their ‘B’. I even hate the ‘loser’ points that hockey teams get for losing in overtime. So I really take exception to all the mis-aimed praise we direct at our children. If your kid does something well, praise them. If the same kid is crappy at something, don’t berate them, but don’t be dishonest about it either.
I saw this mis-aimed praise at the arena the other day and I really had to suppress the urge to speak out. My son Billy is one of two children in his skating lessons, which should be an excellent situation. However the other little boy is slightly younger and has ZERO interest in learning to skate right now. It is obvious by his body language; the tears we occasionally see and the fact that after 5 lessons he can’t even stand up unassisted. I really wonder why the poor kid is still even in the class. It bothers me that my son gets a short changed because the instructor spends a lot of time holding this little boy up or laying down on the ice with him to make sure he’s OK.
Lest you think I’m judging the kid for not skating as well as my son, let me be clear that I am not. Billy also couldn’t stand up without help at the start of this session! Last year, when we first put him in lessons, he was also absolutely not interested in listening to his instructor and less interested in even trying to stand by himself so we pulled him after the first lesson. I have no desire to pay out good money for Billy to sit on the ice and do nothing. And I also don’t think it’s fair to the other kids in the class to have him there distracting everyone and taking up more than his fair share of the instructors time.
But I digress.
Last week, this little boy spent the whole lesson laying on the ice. The. Whole. Time. And the first thing his grandmother said when he got off was “Wow, you skated SOO well today!” What a bald face lie! Ok, it’s not my business if a grandparent wants to praise their grandson for skating well (which he did not!) so I held my tongue. But it still bothers me that they flat out lied to the kid. Isn’t lying supposed to be bad?
What else could they have said in that situation? Maybe “It didn’t look like you were doing too well out there today”. Or “I can see you were having some troubles”. Or the all purpose “You’ll do better next time.”
But then I am known as the mean mommy. I tell my kids when I am disappointed by a lack of real effort. However I also cheer like the Flames just won game 7 when they do something exceptional! Like actually make progress in skating lessons. I was shocked how much Billy progressed in just 5 lessons, because he was actually engaged and interested in skating, or “going hockey” as he calls it. He was finally ready to learn. This other little guy, not so much yet…
We can encourage kids without lying to them. It’s a good thing. And really, what happened to “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all?” Good advice back in the day, and today!