To Praise…Or Not to Praise

That is the question. Is too much too little? Or is too little too much? When it comes to building confidence and self-esteem in our children today, be it through Martial Arts, education or other activities, there seems to be no magic formula.

Praise is linear, on one end of the spectrum there is little to no praise and the on the other, praise is endless. The question is which one prepares our children better for the real world? The answer to that question lies somewhere in the middle.

There has been a steady lowering of the excepted standards of excellence in the last 20 years, not just in Martial Arts but in other activities, including our education system. In the 1970’s the self-esteem movement was born, and ever sense it has steadily eroded our perception of excellence. The premise of the movement is that obstacles, criticism, and failure damage self-esteem, while giving false praise and shallow victories help to improve it. Children are unwittingly led to believe that success comes without hard work and commitment. It’s a slippery and dangerous slope indeed.

Here are 3 examples of how ridiculous and asinine we’ve become in dropping our standards, all in the name of self-esteem.

  1. A recreational soccer league in Ottawa has a policy that if a team scores more than 5 goals, they are declared the loser. What’s the purpose of doing your best, if you can’t do it?
  2. A jump rope program in a Massachusetts school uses no ropes; their idiotic reasoning is that if a student trips with a real rope their self-esteem might get damaged.  A jump rope program without ropes? Huh! Isn’t that an oxymoron?
  3. In Martial Arts, I have seen instances at tournaments, where every child who didn’t place first or second received a third place medal, you might have 5 kids in a division placing third. What the heck does this teach? Other than create a false sense of accomplishment.

These are just 3 examples of the many out there, which are just as bizarre and off the wall, all in the name of protecting children’s self-esteem.

One of the values that I was taught and one that I teach my students is that “Competence leads to Confidence.” The more proficient you become at something, the more confident you become. This is why false praise or substandard expectations are so damaging.

When a child is lead to believe that their performance, skills and techniques are “Excellent” when in reality they are barely subpar, we are setting them up for real hurt and disappointment down the line.

I’ve seen so many young martial artists devastated when a competition doesn’t go their way, as far as they were concerned it was everyone else’s fault but their own, in reality they’re right, society failed them.

It’s been shown that kids who get too much praise are less likely to take risks, are highly sensitive to failure and are more likely to give up when faced with a challenge.

Instead of teaching our children how to lose, or what it’s like to fall down and get back up again, we inundate them with insincere, shallow praise for subpar performance, and protect them from failure with substandard expectations.  Which one do you think would better serve our children’s growth and self-esteem in the long run?

If we are to teach our children important values like Honesty, Integrity and Perseverance, we have to lead and live by example.

Praise should be like a rare commodity, we need to use it wisely and sparingly to get the most value out of it.

It’s okay to fail, it’s okay to lose….Every Champion in life has.

And every Champion will.

By: Master Bell



One Response

  1. […] pm – Wrote a new blog post – HERE 44.637534 […]

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