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.

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