I know that this is an old story, but bad ideas die hard and you can never have too much research refuting them.
This time researchers have shown one of the downsides of giving everyone a trophy. That is, of puffing up children’s self-esteem, telling them they are great, regardless of whether they are.
The Wall Street Journal reports on what happens when you make it that children always win:
Letting children always win games and competitions may give them a false sense of self-confidence that could interfere with learning, suggests a study in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology.
Children who were consistently successful at finding a hidden object in a game deliberately rigged in their favor were less likely to acknowledge the help that an adult had provided than children who found the object some of the time, the study found.
Children who only experienced success may have assumed they had special skills and didn’t require help from others, the researchers suggest.
“We all know situations in which adults try to boost children’s self-esteem by giving every kid on the team a trophy, for example,” lead researcher Dr. Carrie Palmquist, assistant professor in the department of psychology at Amherst College, said in an email. “If children only experience success, they may misinterpret the reason and adopt ineffective approaches to problem-solving and learning.”
The moral of the story, according to Dr. Palmquist—great name that—is that giving children a false sense of their abilities will induce them to reject help from adults. It will create a false sense of their own abilities and will cause them to ignore the wise counsel of adults in positions of authority. It will make them less apt to learn anything because they do not believe that they need anyone else’s help.
Worse yet, when parents and teachers tell children that they are better than they are they are lying to them. Children do not do well on a diet of lies.
Insidiously, this self-esteem undermines the respect for authority and especially damages filial piety.
But, you knew that.