A little while ago, in my meandering way, I noticed one or two articles such as this one in the DT.
Dr Jean Twenge, the psychologist and author of Narcissism Epidemic, points out that this culture of compliments “puts the cart before the horse”. Surely, when we work hard we develop high self-esteem, and then the compliments come, not the other way around.
More recently, this piece from PsychCentral focuses on problems caused by praising children for their personal qualities rather than their achievements.
Emerging research suggests praising children for their personal qualities, rather than the effort put forth, may not be the best approach.
In fact, for kids with low self-esteem, such praise may make the child feel more ashamed when they fail.
The concept of using praise to motivate children has been in the mainstream since the 1960s-1970s when researchers suggested that many of the problems of American society resulted from lack of self-esteem.
Of course such concerns may already be visible in some of today’s younger adults. Taking an example plucked out of the air, we might consider the issue of a young and conspicuously untalented government minister. A young person with far too much confidence and far too little experience or ability on which to base that confidence.
Our hypothetical minister, after grossly excessive childhood head-patting and far too many gold stars for mediocre performance would emerge into adulthood pumped up beyond repair.
Our bouncy and irrepressible minister would be accustomed to extract kudos from what many people would regard as the most dimwitted performance this side of sanity.
Even catastrophic failure would fail to dent the armour-plated self-regard instilled by doting parents and right-on teachers since nappyhood.
Is that something we’ve noticed?