Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tell It Like It Is

If you follow social networking sites at all (or even if, like me, you are only on Facebook and really don't touch Twitter or MySpace or the like), you've seen the video clip of the high school teacher who gave The Graduation Speech of the Year. This is the guy who told it like it is, the guy who told the graduating students that they are nothing special; that there are so many other high schools out there and each one has a valedictorian, and each one has the prom king and queen or whatever. Basically, he reminded them that there is competition in the world and that even though we parents have told our kids all their lives that every time they pee in the toilet and not on the seat they're winners... well... maybe all that's great, but not so true.

Bowling champion? Not yet, but maybe some day... with hard work!
I saw that guy sometime last week. While his words were true and the kids to whom he was speaking (and so many more of us!) needed to hear the message, they weren't significant enough for me to really comment on them here on my blog until today. You might ask the question: what happened today to change your mind?

And of course, as you read on, I'm going to tell you, 'cause it's my blog and (as long as you're reading) I can. I was looking at Hulu for my current go-to show, Shark Tank (totally hooked on this show, by the way) and just like on YouTube, Hulu has other "featured" videos that it puts on it's home page. One of the videos was of a little six-year-old girl who  was on America's Got Talent who was tap dancing. The little blurb about her said that she "can dance with some of the best tap dancers in the world."

So I watched her little two- or three-minute clip and she was a good dancer. So the audience went wild as her dance ended, and two of the judges stood in a sort of ovation for her. And then they started to weigh in. Sharon gave an enthusiastic "YES" right away. Howard Stern was next and though he tried to be gentle, he said that her act was just not a "million-dollar-act." And the audience boo'ed Mr. Stern.

And the audience was wrong.

Look, I am no fan of Howard Stern. I could give all kinds of reasons why not, but that is not the point of this post. The point is that all those around her were telling her what a wonderful dancer she is, and what does that teach her? That everything she does is spectacular. Is it harmful to tell a child they've done well? NO, but she was so sure that she was worthy of the prize even at six years old. She was told over and over that she was "amazing." 

One day he'll learn what it means to earn the trophy
For now, he's proud of having played.

Another time I've seen this is over at the grocery store we go to. The baggers are paid in tips only. But there is always a waiting list of people who want to work for them, so they do pretty well. I was talking one day - a couple of years ago now - to some other wives who frequent this particular store. The topic was, of course, how much to tip them. One person said she gives $5 or more, and many of us said that was too much. The best explanation of why that was too much was the question: What does that teach them?

Does it teach those mostly young adults/older teens that earning good money takes hard work? Does it teach them that they need to do a good job and be personable to earn the higher amounts? Or that the money comes just because they've done some little service for you?  I think the best answer was to pay by the bag. For me personally, I give only $2 to $3 but I don't let them take my stuff to the car and load it up for me; I do that myself because our car is full of people and there is very little room left over.

Doing the hard work to achieve a good end result

My kids are always looking to earn money, and I steer them away from the jobs I know they can't do well enough for pay - YET. The 7 year old is not ready to mow lawns for cash, or really to mow lawns at all. The 12 year old, maybe. But not the younger two. They're still learning. And that is as it should be. Don't flatter talent that is not there. Do praise and talk up hard work and effort to get there. 
I'm not stingy enough to pooh-pooh the "thanks-for-playing" trophies my kids get at baseball either. At seven, Bruiser is more pleased than I can say that he has a trophy. Every kid should have that moment once in life - and at a later point, that kid will realize it for what it is and strive for the first-place prize. By then though, the stakes will be high enough (hopefully!) that the prize will have to be earned. Start with encouragement, move on from there. At six or seven, it's a thanks-anyway pat on the back. We shouldn't be too quick to call them "prodigies" for latent talent that is not honed and polished.

The faces of a hard-won first-place trophy - joyful in knowing they earned it!
So, I guess, call me the Grinch, but kudos to Howard Stern, the high school speaker, and those other wives for keeping it real. 

How do you encourage without going too far?

Shared with: 

Christian Marriage Advice

Jesse Wilcox Smith~ On His Knee

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