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More Harm than Good

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Introduction

Generally, Praise, like penicillin, must not be administered haphazardly. There are rules and cautious that governs the handling of potent medicine-rules about timing and dosage, cautious about possible allergic reactions. There are similar regulations about the administration of emotional medicine. (H. Ginott, 1965). This essay will discuss the effects of too much praise.

Praising

In brief, Praise-and-reward springs from the work of psychologists who painstakingly discovered that they could train rats to run mazes, pigeons to peck at colored buttons, and dogs to salivate at the sound of the dinner bell - by giving them a controlled schedule of rewards. Psychologists soon became titillated about the idea of controlling human beings, by applying to us the same principles that worked on animals. The rewards work exactly the same on humans as on rats, pigeons and dogs. Modern psychological know-how has enabled us to manipulate children's behavior, thoughts and emotions in the same way as we can teach a seal, with a few sardines and a little flattery, to balance a ball on its nose.(Rewards and Praise: The Poisoned Carrot, Robin Grille).

Carol Dweck, a professor of developmental psychology at Stanford University and author of "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success."  found that children's performance worsens if they always hear how smart they are. Kids who get too much praise are less likely to take risks, are highly sensitive to failure and are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge. Parents should take away the fact that they are not giving their children a gift when they tell them how brilliant and talented they are," Dweck says. "They are making them believe they are valued only for being intelligent, and it makes them not want to learn.

Effects of praise

To begin with, acclamations like "I just know you can do it", "You're getting better!", "I know you've got it in you!", "You'll get there!" sound supportive on the surface. But these compliments are loaded with our expectation that one must improve in some way. This seduces one to work harder to impress us, at the expense of their self-esteem.

 ''Praise is the sweet side of authoritarian parenting. That is why the more astute one feel something "icky" in praise; it makes them feel condescended to. Praise is a reminder that the praiser has power over them. It diminishes the child's sense of autonomy, and, like a little pat on the head, it keeps them small.”

Meanwhile, the rewarder is like an assessor, judging what merits praise and what doesn't. This makes them somewhat scary to someone. The use of praise or rewards does not make one feel supported. It makes them feel evaluated and judged. Though "Good boy!" or "Good girl!" is a positive judgment, it is still a judgment from on high, and ultimately it alienates the one. ‘You see what power is - holding someone else's fear in your hand and showing it to them! ‘‘ (Amy Tan,1952)

With attention, children, just like adults, naturally recoil from being controlled. We all want to grow toward self-determination. Praise can therefore create resistance, since it impinges on a child's developing sense of autonomy. ‘The wisest men follow their own direction. ‘‘ (Euripides,Greek dramatist,484BC-406BC)

Above all, rewards punish, because one is denied the reward, praise or approval unless he or she "comes up with the goods". Moreover, somebody who is used to being praised begins to feel inadequate if the praise doesn't come- nothing feels more defeating to a child than to miss out on a reward that he or she had been conditioned to expect. ''Inside every carrot, there is a stick.''

In addition when children are bribed with rewards for "good" behavior, they soon learn how to manipulate us by acting the part that is expected of them and honesty suffers. After all, who wants to be honest or real with a person who is evaluating them?  Manipulation erodes the functions of mutual trust, vulnerability and transparency, which are vital to healthy intimate relationships. ‘I don't know the key to success but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.''(Bill Cosby,1937)

Also, among siblings, or in the classroom, reward systems create competition, jealousy, envy, and mistrust. Rewards or prizes for "good" performance are a threat to co-operation or collaboration. ‘Our envy of others devours most of all’’ (Alexander Solzhenitsy, 1918)

Personally I would advocate one to praise someone's effort and not his intelligence. Human beings are given different abilities and talent-and that defines why there is specialization in the society. No matter how hard you try you can't be like your neighbor! Effort comes from self-drive. The effort you put in nurturing your ability determines a lot. Praising one’s effort will encourage one to put more effort and in essence produce good results.

To bring to your attention, research in neurosurgery has shown that the brain is remarkably plastic - when we praise someone with statements such as "You are so smart!", we are not praising their efforts. We are praising an attribute as if it were a quality that is etched in stone.

Psychologists have devised a number of ingenious experiments to test the idea that praising kids for attributes such as intelligence helps them have high self-esteem.  What researchers are finding is that when kids are praised as being "smart" they are more likely to give up when encountering challenges. The psychologists hypothesize that such children are faced with a dilemma when they encounter these challenges. They say to themselves, "If I'm so smart, why am I having difficulties with this?" Rather than relinquishing the idea that they are smart, these children often give up more quickly. In essence, they are trying to protect their ego.

In another study researchers divided 128 fifth-graders into groups and gave them a simple IQ test. One group was praised for intelligence, the other for effort. Asked if they wanted to take a slightly harder test, the kids praised for their intelligence were reluctant. Of those praised for their effort, however, 90 percent were eager for a more challenging task. And on a final test the effort group performed significantly better than the group praised for its intelligence.

''Thomas has progressed through school; his self-awareness that he’s smart hasn’t always translated into fearless confidence when attacking his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’ father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at,” his father says. “Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately, concluding, ‘I’m not good at this.’ ” With no more than a glance, Thomas was dividing the world into two—things he was naturally good at and things he wasn’t.''(Pro Bonson, The inverse power of phrase, Feb 11 2007).

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