So I remember reading an article similar to this one back when Maria was a toddler. And I remember thinking “that is such bullish–! You can never praise a kid too much.”
If there is one fu– up that I have had as a mom, I think this ranks up there (god knows I have had quite a few). I am able to completely verify the accuracy of the study in this article.
My sweet Maria has only ever been told since birth what an amazingly wonderful, special, fantastic, incredible girl she is. Any project she works on warrants a “what a spectacular job” no matter if it’s mediocre or truly spectacular. Any sport she attempts warrants a “you are a machine out there” no matter if she tripped over everyone. Any drawing she created warranted “that is gorgeous” even if she scribbled and put in little effort. Get my drift?
And I thought “what a great mom I am lavishing all this praise on my girl.”
And she did and continues to do, wonderful things. She’s passionate, adventurous, caring, loving, aware, funny, smart. But she’s also hesitant to try new things or to push herself beyond her known capabilities. She will, at times, but it takes work to get her there. That is why after reading this article, I was beating myself up. It’s hard to think of Ri as having low self-esteem. She is boisterous and not afraid to talk to people and always ready to take a trip and see new sights. She asks questions of adults when she doesn’t understand. She introduces herself to strangers.
But she also gets worried that she’s not as good a reader as her classmates. That she’s uglier than her girlfriends. That she isn’t motivated like her colleagues. That her teacher thinks she’s stupid. When I ask her to try soccer, she doesn’t want to. When I tell her to try to finish a long article, she complains (now that could be pure laziness!). When I tell her to draw an animal she hasn’t drawn, she hesitates.
Is it because I praised her so much that she doesn’t want to risk disappointing me with a new project she doesn’t know if she can complete well? Have I inadvertently caused her to avoid challenges?
Errhh. It’s so frustrating. It’s also humbling. Here I am praising my kid left and right and inadvertently judging the mom who doesn’t – when all along I could have learned some tips from her. It also can’t be the end of the world. There are plenty of “right” things I have done with that baby girl. I’m over the delusion that I will be the perfect mom. I just don’t want to screw her up too much (by the way, Mario is a whole other story – he thrives with excessive praise but there are quite a few other areas that I need to work on…).
So, I will keep this article in mind when I have told Ri for the 10th time how incredible her drawing looks of two stick figures. And I will continue to work on exercises that raise her self-esteem because I know my girl can reach the farthest star in the sky if she believes fully in herself. And I will continue to appreciate myself as a mother trying my hardest to raise intelligent, thoughtful, confident, and empathetic kids.