How Adversity Can Help Your Kids

By KBJR News 1

How Adversity Can Help Your Kids

November 9, 2010 Updated Nov 9, 2010 at 6:51 PM CDT

Posted by Melissa Burlaga

Duluth, MN (Northland's NewsCenter) For decades, American parents have heard that their most important task is to build up their children's self esteem.

But some experts now say that effort has been misguided and has had unintended consequences.

Barbara Reyelts has the story for Connect with kids.

Despite average grades, Christina says some of her teachers constantly showered her with compliments.

"Finally you get to the point where you don't appreciate their compliments anymore, you just kind of ignore them."

Some experts say parents and teachers are afraid to let kids feel bad because it might damage their self-esteem.

And so on many playing fields everyone makes the team.

At award ceremonies, everyone gets a ribbon.

And in some schools, students are complimented just for showing up for class.

"There's no longer a sense of earning something, of being able to set a goal, work for it, accomplish it, and know there are distinctions between who does a better performance and who does a less than perfect performance."

A new multi-year study to be published in the journal of personality and social psychology reports that some adversity leads to better mental health.

Although researchers studied major lifetime adversity, they say even mundane set-backs can contribute to resilience.

"It has to be something when we give the praise that is praiseworthy, because if it gets watered down it becomes meaningless to the child."

These days Christina works hard at her part time job as an assistant cook and she's getting better grades in school.

What changed?

She went to a new school two years ago.

Where she was encouraged to achieve and praised for real accomplishments.

"They push you harder and they tell you that you can do these things.
They actually care about you."