Social Question

Pandora's avatar

Do you think false confidence is ever needed?

Asked by Pandora (27849points) September 27th, 2010

In raising my children, I was sometime criticized for being to honest about their actual achievements. I applauded all their strengths both big and small but I would never tell them something was right if I felt they should have the skills they needed to achieve them.
Even when playing games, I wouldn’t throw the game to make them happy. I would simply point out that I have better skills from practice.
If they tried to give up, I would let them know that the game would be off limits forever if they could not stick it out. As a result they got better and of course won, fair and square.
I always felt it was a good lesson to teach them four things.
1. Life isn’t going to hand you everything you want.
2. You have to earn your way through life.
3. The only way to really win, is to sometimes struggle to you get things right.
4. Theres no guarantees that hard work will always pay off but if you give up when its tough you’ll never learn you can do it better.

I bring this up because I, notice children are getting more and more awards these days for very little. Aren’t we setting up children for failure once they realize that the real awards require real work and struggle, sacrifice and tenacity?
And the ones that really work hard are being sent the message that their work equals lame work so why bother to work hard?

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25 Answers

Jabe73's avatar

I agree with everything you said above but I’m not sure what relation this is to your question if fake confidence is ever needed. At first I was thinking you were mentioning “faking it until you make it” until I’ve read the rest of your question. I’m not sure what you are asking here (maybe I’m being dumb 2night).

I think the fact that a lack of motivation for any type of hard work when you do not recieve fast results or not being gauranteed of anything especially when there is favoritism in society might very well be true. I think if children are raised with a decent set of morals and compassion then the other things have a better chance of coming together. Avoid spoiling them as well.I’m not sure if I answered this question correctly.

tranquilsea's avatar

I agree with you. It is important to be honest, or should I say, as honest as possible. For those kids who struggle with self confidence I will give them a boost. For little kids I give away praise like it is going out of style. But when they get older, for the most part, I give them praise when they deserve it and constructive criticism when they need it.

Pandora's avatar

@Jabe73 The reason I say fake confidence is because I’ve seen schools and parents award children for poor work. They do it to inspire confidence. I often feel many of these children can see when the praises or awards are fake and it undermines the confidence that these people are trying to install, or if they buy into it they stop short of trying to do better because they can still get the awards and praise without any real effort.
Basically, I wanted to know does praising a child for poor work in the long haul ever really work?
I think it can hinder any possiblility of any real confidence.
I guess, I“m just wonder if there is any proof that it works. Over the years, I’ve know parents who see everything there child do as perfect, no matter what. But I’ve never seen the end result.
We moved a lot, so I’ve never seen if their child ever improved with false praise.

Jabe73's avatar

@Pandora Well yes you are doing the right thing here. Some schools have even considered paying kids to do good in school. I think there is a bigger issue here with overall self-esteem however in this situation rather than confidence. Your overall self-esteem is really what determines your confidence level on many things you do or try to accomplish. If kids are always being overawarded for doing very little then eventually this will catch up with them later in life when reality sets in and they realize that they have been led on to believe things were much easier than what they really are. Now the kids (when they start approaching 18) will start to have some real major problems. This will lead to overconfidence for the most mediocre achievements and create a domino effect. You are right because in the end overawarding for little does not and will not payoff in the end.

jerv's avatar

Your observations match up with what I have seen and the only reason I don’t cry myself to sleep every night or eat a gun in despair is because of a weird form of Schadenfreude. I almost enjoy watching these kids finding out that there is such a thing as “losing” and watching their spirits get crushed like a watermelon at a Gallagher show.

At least there are enough “old school” parents like you out there to give me a glimmer of legitimate hope for the future.

Pandora's avatar

@jerv Thanks. I know on my end, my children are grown now but this whole nonsense started when they went to school. I told them never aim for the (my name for them) pretty awards. I call them this because it could be given to a child simply for being pretty. (yes, their school actually handed these out. But they were awards for being sweet.)
Any how, luck and hardwork payed off and both are doing well, but I always wondered if the children who are my childrens age and doing poorly in life, are a result of building them up without ever laying down the foundation.

jerv's avatar

@Pandora I generally considered not failing to be reward enough unless I went above and beyond.

talljasperman's avatar

I never let my schooling interfere with my education… at least until college…I always skipped class to study and learn… at least I did show up for tests and did little of the “assigned homework” ... I rarely received awards on awards night and I made it to university I only started to fail when I stopped caring about the material and started worrying about marks and leadership awards…and what I thought other people cared about…I’m still learning about life and science… but on my terms.

BarnacleBill's avatar

Kids do know the awards are fake, and schools or sports teams shouldn’t be handing them out so that everyone gets an award.

I can tell you how it plays out. A kid gets a 5th place prize in an art competition. Mom pats him on the head, and says, “what a great little artist you are!” and hangs the picture on the refrigerator for the next 3 years. Flash forward to working as an adult, and the kid is in a position to create a Web site for his business. Rather than hire an ad agency, he decides that since he’s “artistic” he can do the work himself. He creates the site, it’s a graphic nightmare. He blames the lack of sales on the internet not being an effective sales medium.

chocolatechip's avatar


So what are you saying? False praise is never appropriate because kids will grow up knowing nothing but praise?

john65pennington's avatar

I have a son and a daughter. my son was Mr. Everything in high school. he excelled in being a long-distance track runner. he has the trophies to prove this.

My daughter loved to watch her brother run. she was his number one fan. one day, she decided that she wanted to be like her older brother and also be a track runner. she exercised and began short distance running up and down our street. the big day came for her to join her other classmates in a trial run at her school. she was 14 at the time. she started off with a bang, but tired out half way around the oval track. she just stood there. head hanging down and crying. she admitted defeat that she would never surpass or equal her brother in running track.

I walked out on the track, grabbed her hand and held onto her for about two minutes. i told her that it was okay, that she gave it her best effort and that was all that counted. I believe in encouraging our children to achieve their best efforts in whatever situation they are in. i do not believe in admonishing them, when they have given their very best and failed.

“We are not all track runners”, i told my daughter. “you will find your niche in life and prosper from it one day”. my daughter is now an RN and works for a very respectful doctor in the northwest. she made her own way in her life. her mother and i were there to always give her moral support, no matter what.

Flexability is the name of the game with children.

I agree with some of your strategy. i do agree with all of your strategy.

lucillelucillelucille's avatar

I completely agree with you.
There are more than enough whiny babies out there with a skewed sense of entitlement.

jerv's avatar

@john65pennington Just remember that there is a difference between praising someone for trying and giving them a gold medal for the attempt like many nowadays would do. You realize that you could’ve sued the school for emotional distress, right? Man, these are screwed up times we live in!

john65pennington's avatar

Jerv, sue city. too many frivilous lawsuits already out there. the emotional stress was on all four of us and everyone else in the bleachers that almost cried for her. she made the effort and thats just fine with her parents. thanks for your answer.

Pied_Pfeffer's avatar

I agree with you, and so would both of my sisters. One taught high school English and the other is a 5th grade teacher. They have mentioned on several occasions that they have been ‘encouraged’ by the administrative powers-that-be to not grade so hard. Both refuse(ed) to do so. I don’t know how common this is, but parents have gone to administration to ask that their child either be put in or not put in their class when their child was entering a certain grade.

The English teacher sister passed away several years ago. I ran across some postings about her on another site where a member asked, “Who was your favorite teacher?” I sent messages to those that mentioned her. Here is a response from one:

I am fortunate that I had her for a year. She was one of a few teachers that challenged me, and tried to bring out the best in me. Sure, it left a mark on my record, but though I had gotten 100s on my English papers before, I truly treasured when she awarded me 88s. I specifically remember one of her comments on one of my papers, that it was a mix of ‘good insight and carelessness.’ True, I didn’t quite fulfill what I think I was capable of, even then, but I remember those papers better than the ones that I had A+s on. I also had her for my other two years of high school through Pop Quiz (team). Those were the best years of high school.

The other responses were in the same vein. One even mentioned that they feared her at the time, but realized how valuable the experience was once they entered college. It helped prepare them for the shock of entering a level of higher education where much more is expected.

CMaz's avatar

“Do you think false confidence is ever needed?”

But do not confused with teaching your child that it is ok to be who they are.

Sometimes you win, even when you loose.

Nullo's avatar

I think that it’s wise to praise real achievements and offer encouragement to bolster weak areas and to avoid put-downs entirely.

Those soccer trophies that everybody got at the end of the season feel really hollow now, but my pinewood derby award (2nd place in my category!) doesn’t.

talljasperman's avatar

giving praise is a way of controlling people…
“A soldier will fight long and hard for a bit of colored ribbon.”- Napoleon Bonaparte

… I saw through that at an early age and didn’t do the assignments that only gave gold stars on a board…I was told that the marks on my report card was payment enough… I disagree…I read what I wanted when I wanted, how I wanted…I still wanted praise… but I wasn’t going to lower myself to that level to get it…. for me to read a book I have to want to read it… I don’t like being controlled, cajoled, or forced… the teacher should have gotten better books… but we settled on a compromise… she leaves me alone and I do one assignment…so I did a book report on The family circus comic book… she still gave me a gold star on the wall

Pandora's avatar

@john65pennington, I think @Nullo put it best. Yes, weak areas should be bolstered and not ridiculed. And in your case, it was wise to support your daughter. Nothing wrong with trying her best. That should always be encouraged. But what I’m mostly talking about is the kid who comes in last everytime and at the end of the year is given, most improved player, or valuable team member. It’s ok to lose. You won’t win everything in life. My son was also in track and although he never placed in the top five, it was ok with him. He always gave it his all but was just glad to hang out with the team and add whatever points he could for the team. He did the sport because he loved it, not because of the award he could get and he liked to challange himself.
He knew he wasn’t an athlete, but for a little while he could feel like one and be part of a team.
What I’m trying to say, is that children should always be encouraged and sympathy given when they try hard but still lose. But I’m sure you didn’t tell your daughter that it wasn’t her fault because other kids where older, bigger and stronger, and have all been in track before and practiced with the coach after school every day and given secret tips and so on. I’ve seen parents at the track who had their children believing that they were just as good as the rest only they had an unfair advantage of some type. All in the name of making the kid feel better.
I agree with your way because you let her know that this wasn’t maybe her thing and that she may excel in other areas.

Pandora's avatar

@Nullo, Sorry about the awards. :(
But hey, 2nd place. Thats awesome! =D

jerv's avatar

I think it’s a little different if you actually put in an honest effort and just come up short. However, it seems that kids these days want a gold medal just for showing up, and that isn’t right.

BarnacleBill's avatar

@chocolatechip, yes I think false praise is wrong. Kids who play a sport and get a trophy just being on the team diminish the value of the MVP or most improved team member. Ordinary effort is just that – ordinary. You play sports for the fun of the game and for the perk of being part of a team. Not giving everyone a trophy because it causes hurt feelings is adult bullshit projected onto children. Kids need to learn that being ordinary does not get you rewards.

That being said, there are extraneous things that deserve praise that often goes unnoticed. For example, a child who puts in a lot of effort into an assignment and gets a B is more praise-worthy than the child that expended no effort and got an A, because the child who put forth no effort isn’t being challenged by the assignment. The act of expending the effort to learn is more valuable than breezing through something unchallenged. You want the child that needs to put in the time to do the work to cultivate the habit of doing what it takes to learn the material, even if the mastery is not A level work. And you want the easy A student to be challenged to where they have to expend the effort. My children are two years apart in age but 6 years apart in education.

Children should be praised for things that they are doing really well, to encourage them to continue to expend effort, but it should come from people who make it meaningful—parents.

Pandora's avatar

I agree that effort should be applauded but the kid that you say may not be challenged may simply make things look easy.
I have two children. Both are smart. However, everyone always thought my son was so smart that his A’s came easy. What people never knew was the extra hours of hard work and effort he put into studying at home. His sister could commit things to memory easily. With very little effort she could’ve gotten the same A’s, only school didn’t matter to her very much so she would get B’s because she wouldn’t try.
Too everyone who knew the two, he was always considered the genius. She was just average smart.
Point is at home. We did recognize the difference in how they worked. However, at school everyone thought he was just naturally talented. It was many hours of hard work. Of course with time things get easier when someone knows how to apply themselves but it doesn’t make it any less note worthy.

Nullo's avatar

Now bravado, what I thought that you were talking about when I just read the question, can be very useful. Especially for public speaking.

Hypocrisy_Central's avatar

Fact from fiction, truth from diction. That is what I have always thought to tell a child they can do anything if they just tried hard enough I felt was a disservice to the. I have noticed the trend towards everyone gets an award/trophy and thought that watered down the real trophy and set those who didn’t measure up for a rude awakening down the road. I believe it can also cause some to simply not try as much as they might because they feel ”I will get something” anyhow. I think if you have not earned it you don’t get it. Good grades, awards, trophies goes to the top or better participants.

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