Too Tough vs. Tough Love

Dear Sara,

I have a twelve year old son. I feel that kids today are totally spoiled and receive rewards verbally and otherwise for below average performances. I am trying to raise my son differently. He only receives praise for doing a really exceptional job. He played soccer for a while and I let him know when I didn’t feel like he was trying hard enough. He is in wrestling now and I let him know when he does his best. My friend told me that she thinks I am being too hard on him. I think I am being realistic. Who is right here?

Dear Diane,

Probably you both are right to a certain extent. Your son may be growing up to think he has to be perfect at all times because this is the standard that you have set for him or he could just say to himself “no matter what I do it’s just not good enough.” On the other side, with a lot of undeserved praise a child could think that whatever they do is good enough and they don’t have to try very hard to get what they want. They could end up with an unrealistic view of themselves and be very hard to live with.

Maybe a middle of the road, more diplomatic approach would be better. Children are very sensitive to their parents criticisms. When your son tries hard and fails, it might be good to let him know that you noticed his efforts. If he doesn’t try very hard maybe there could be a reason for that, like lack of interest. Try going for a moderate approach. Praise for effort as well as performance. He needs your love and approval, not just your criticism.


  1. Magda Robles says:

    Dear Diane
    Lets start on believing that we were not perfect either at everything while growing up.
    Love is perfect in itself. Love and encouragement will do more than so much pressure…
    At the end your kid will keep trying because you encourage and support his efforts.
    Love them first make them respect you and everything else will flow.
    Grandmother and mother.

  2. Wrestling will do the trick…No bats, balls or other objects or weapons of any kind. Just fair and an
    equal [in weight] opponent is better than going against bigger or taller or heavier opponents IMO
    The teamwork in preparing and practicing pays off when the contest is one-on-one. We are talking
    about wrestling in school – not the show of fake ‘pro’ wrestling…….

  3. I agree to a certain extent with Sara but kids don’t need to be praised all the time. You can let them know that you appreciate the fact that they are trying and you hope that it is their best.
    I have a friend who was praising his son every time he got a good score which this kid will eventually expect whether he does good or poorly.
    I think giving kids attention when they need it is good but a lot of kids today, feel entitled. This is very dangerous because they won’t want to work hard for anything if it is just given to them. Strict guidelines should also be set up so kids know when they are crossing the line.

  4. False praise is like participation trophies. This is why we now have a generation of snowflakes.

    • Ha ha, so right. We have the exact same problem in New Zealand. Everybody in Primary School (i.e. Grade School to folks in US) get certificates for trying hard, even if they haven’t. Been going on for over 20 years, I should know, my kids now range from 29 down to 24. And they all got these bullsh*t certificates.

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