Dear Rhonda and Dr. Cheri,
My son, at age 9, is the best pianist in his school. I’m not saying this because I am his mom. His father, who isn’t easily impressed, believes this is true also. Many teachers have told us the same.
He was born with this talent. We started piano lessons when he was 5 years old. His piano teacher praised him all the time and it helped develop his self-esteem. I admit he has a healthy dose of self-esteem.
His piano teacher moved away and we were able to get the best of the best to teach our son. However, this man has said the most negative things to our child.
This teacher told him, he’s not as good as he thinks he is. He told us our son is good but not great and we have done an injustice to him by making him think he’s better than anyone else.
We told our son’s piano teacher that we have given our son worthy and genuine praise. He told us we are ruining our son’s life and he wasn’t going to teach a pompous child. Pompous!
Please ask yourself the following questions and be brutally honest:
1) Are you giving your son excessive compliments?
2) Have you compared him to other children in his class, school, community, or church as being “better than?” (It doesn’t matter if you think he really is or isn’t.)
3) Have you given him any reason to believe that you love him more because he’s so talented?
Children are smart; they know when they’re being over-praised and don’t deserve it.
Consequently, he may develop a real superiority complex in order to mask his own deep and secret feelings of inadequacy.
Comparing your son to any one else as being “better-than” feeds a child with overwhelming expectations. That can convince him to believe it’s OK to try to force others to look up to him. If he does this with any type of power, manipulation, or coercion, he may become a bully to those who don’t give him grandiose praise.
Be careful not to think it is better to over-praise your child in order to build up his self-esteem, especially if you had overly critical and inattentive parents yourself.
There are many ways to be positive without going overboard. Saying “well done,” or “good job” are reasonable responses. Telling a child that you value his efforts, no matter the outcome, helps him to know you love him, regardless of talent, looks, intelligence or anything else.
That’s how he’ll learn the value of true unconditional love.
Rhonda and Dr. Cheri