I came across this article last night on CNN.com and was fascinated it about. Brought back recollections of Coach Rick Majerus and his theory of "helicopter parents." You can read the entire article here.
Authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman have made a habit of slaying the sacred cows of parenting in their writing on child development. The pair made headlines two years ago in "NurtureShock" -- their first book together -- in which they criticized the way many parents choose to raise their children.
Bronson and Merryman have just released their newest work, "Top Dog." In two interviews, they shared some thoughts with me on strategies parents should follow to best ensure their offspring are (broadly defined) winners, not losers.
Q: You say parents have a common misconception about their role raising children. Can you explain that?
Bronson: Parenting is not just about safety and security. It's about expanding your child's comfort zone. For example, a child needs to know he or she is safe, but after that, it's OK for a parent to make their son or daughter feel unstable. Meaning, children have to get used to the frustration and jealousy that come from competition.
Q: What do you mean exactly?
Merryman: We have placed too much focus on the importance of comforting children.
There are still too many soccer teams that don't keep score and give trophies to every player. Kids aren't fooled when adults don't keep score. They know exactly who got what goal and who missed.
Q: Why is competition so important?
Merryman: Research says what makes an individual successful is the development of agency. Agency is that inherent belief in yourself -- the ability to have a vision and know you can go for it. The alternative is to look over your shoulder to get your friends' approval.
Bronson: Healthy competition also teaches kids to stand up for themselves. They learn to be vocal. They learn to be comfortable getting attention. When they can be successful, competition also teaches children to circumvent the desire to quit. These are all precursors to what happens when they get older.
Q: Not all children enjoy competition. Some kids shy away from it. What do you say to parents of these children?
Bronson: Parents can wire their children so they are ready to compete. One way is to make sure you never put your child in a competition they don't have a fighting chance of winning.
Merryman: Competition is not just about athletics. Competition could be a science fair or a spelling bee. In any competition, parents can help their children by asking them the right, open-ended questions: Do you need to work harder next time? What could you have done to produce a different result? The most important lesson for parents is to encourage their children to work through challenges in a problem-solving way.
Q: Finally, to raise a "Top Dog," what's the worst mistake a parent can make?
Merryman: Doing too much for your kid and protecting children from failure.
Bronson: Parents who think they're helping their children by keeping them safe from losing may be inadvertently creating kids who are less capable of competing as adults. Parents must allow their children to fail. Children should be given the opportunity to connect the dots between winning and losing and that winning takes effort.