Childhood Unbound p.160

Remember to acknowledge only when you mean it, and not every time you notice a change for the better. I emphasize this because child rearing went terribly awry in the praise department with our kids, turning a powerful necessity into something so cheapened it became inauthentic and perhaps even destructive. Have you ever wondered whether the past 30 years’ emphasis on robotically praising our kids has actually been good for them? And have you considered that there might be a link between rote, reflexive adult praise, and the proliferation of a harsh reality–TV shows laced with “brutally honest criticism,” as well as the ever–edgy tone of the second family? I believe these 21st century phenomena of “mean “might in part be a manifestation of our decades-long love affair with praise.

For a while, I and others in the child-rearing world have been sensing that the self-esteem movement parentheses (which began in the sixties and seventies after the discovery of family violence and hidden abuse behind closed doors) was a profoundly important contribution to understanding and ensuring the safety of our children. But by the nineties it had gone way too far and created unintended consequences. Three decades after its “discovery,” boomers, post–boomers, and now the free–est generation have come to consider continuous praise a staple of life and a necessary precondition for work to be done.

 

Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.160

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Childhood Unbound p.42

The flip side of the new freedoms was a new anxiety. It was infused by endless access, early decisions about high-risk behavior, the ability to do “whatever” without concerns about being seen, and by the overwhelming reach of technology and the warp-speed of life itself. The free-est generation began to shimmer with neon-bright anxiety. This was different than internal neurotic anxiety, by which I mean symptomatic, psychological conflict, thought to be the result of guilt between “right” and “wrong,” the struggle between “id” and “superego,” and the fear that “bad” thoughts meant being a bad person. In children this anxiety can lead to a raging battle between pleasing parents and pleasing oneself, and even to feeling personal responsibility for the very lives, health, and well-being of one’s parents. This type of internal conflict had been the bread and butter of psychoanalysis during the time of the greatest generation and its boomer children.

No, by the second millennium, the kids of older boomers and post-boomers were suffering from a different breed of anxiety, generated by real-life forces: intense social, academic, and techno-driven pressures.

 

Ron Taffel – Childhood Unbound p.42