This time researchers have shown one of the downsides of giving everyone a trophy. That is, of puffing up children’s self-esteem, telling them they are great, regardless of whether they are.
The Wall Street Journal reports on what happens when you make it that children always win:
Letting children always win games and competitions may give them a false sense of self-confidence that could interfere with learning, suggests a study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Children who were consistently successful at finding a hidden object in a game deliberately rigged in their favor were less likely to acknowledge the help that an adult had provided than children who found the object some of the time, the study found.
Children who only experienced success may have assumed they had special skills and didn’t require help from others, the researchers suggest.
“We all know situations in which adults try to boost children’s self-esteem by giving every kid on the team a trophy, for example,” lead researcher Dr. Carrie Palmquist, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Amherst College, said in an email. “If children only experience success, they may misinterpret the reason and adopt ineffective approaches to problem-solving and learning.”
The moral of the story, according to Dr. Palmquist—great name that—is that giving children a false sense of their abilities will induce them to reject help from adults. It will create a false sense of their own abilities and will cause them to ignore the wise counsel of adults in positions of authority. It will make them less apt to learn anything because they do not believe that they need anyone else’s help.
Worse yet, when parents and teachers tell children that they are better than they are they are lying to them. Children do not do well on a diet of lies.
Insidiously, this self-esteem undermines the respect for authority and especially damages filial piety.
But, you knew that.
Ex-Army here. Now, that all makes perfect sense, and many of us laymen have concluded the same thing for the same reasons. This trend seems to have started when my kids were young, and it seemed absurd to me when they started handing out trophies to everybody who showed up. My thoughts were, though, not that it corrupted the kids into thinking they were better than they were, but that the kids must know how phony the whole operation was, because they were there, and knew they didn't win. So instead of getting their self-esteem bumped up, they learn that the adults in their lives lie to them. But you also have to consider the kids who maybe aren' the sharpest knives in the drawer, who don't usually perceive that they're being lied to, and who think they deserve all the trophies? Well, those are the kids described in the essay above.
What about groups of kids? Suppose you had a group of, say, freckled kids, and you made a special effort to boost their self-esteem, by giving them awards all the time and even having an affirmative action program for them so that they're assured of success in everything no matter how feeble their efforts. And, when they do fail somehow in spite of all this, you tell them that they failed only because of discrimination and oppression from the non-freckled.
You can pressure businesses, especially entertainment businesses, to hire and promote the freckled at the expense of others, so that the freckled kids can see them lionized and feel extra proud of being freckled themselves. And when businesses run commercials, they should always have dumb non-freckled guys being enlightened by smart freckled guys.
You see where I'm going with this, right? Now google "Black" and "self-esteem" together and see what group has the highest self-esteem. And don't miss this one [link].
Quibcag: Illustrated by the criminal Black Organization group from Detective Conan (Meitantei Conan 名探偵コナ). Conan, AKA Meitantei Conan (名探偵コナン). Maybe the girls in it aren't all that cute, but they are girls.