Pageantry Insanity: stop praising your children for everything they do

Hello mums. I’m addressing you directly, but I am aware that in this age of political correctness I should also greet the throngs of overbearing fathers that are out there too. So hello mums and dads. Let’s have a much-needed talk about the ridiculous way you’re raising your children, shall we?

I know what you’re thinking, but no, I’m not about to start some madcap rant about the young teens that are flitting off to join the Isis holiday camp (although forced marriage, slavery and graphic death do all seem very appealing, so I see why you are being slack with your vigilance and letting them go off) – I’m addressing this culture of undeserved applause and celebration.

Parents, you are nurturing the next generation of humans that will take on stewardship for the planet and instead of encouraging hard work, intellect and achievement you are mindlessly leaping up and down to congratulate your child about their latest drivel-ridden blog post or mastering the fine art of opening their own drink bottle. If I have to hear the words “Oh Alexa wants nothing more than to be a fashion blogger” again, I will be soon after arrested for trying to choke the smug idiot who said it with a gluten, fat and taste-free bran muffin that she glibly ordered with her soy chai latte.

I remember when school was a place of learning and socialisation. I enjoyed school immensely, deciding from a young age that I wanted to be a headteacher so I could spend all of my time there. Moving up to a big school that expected me to do well in lots of exams was a culture shock, even though I hadn’t been coddled in any way. The love affair with school tarnished slightly at that point, but it was a necessary evil that I persevered with.

Crazy little girl, studio on white background
Highschool. wow.

And what do children have now? Four-year-olds now ‘graduate’ from nursery. That’s right, they graduate. What exactly have they achieved in those formative years? Have they become a doctor in wearing big boy pants or perhaps a recognised expert in thumb sucking? No? So why are you popping little mortarboards and gowns on them and applauding their progression to primary school? This is insanity at its worst and any of you going along with it need to re-evaluate your life pretty sharpish. If you can’t see that this unwarranted praise and show-ponying is exactly why we will end up with no doctors but a billion wide-eyed wannabes called Zoella, then let me open your eyes for you with a year-by-year guide on what you can be impressed with your child about:

Year 1 – There is no praise or adulation required here, only your own relief if you can get any sleep or persuade your child to feed.

Years 2 to 4 – Walking and talking? Great achievements but let’s not go too overboard. Most people master these and those that don’t have a good reason.

Years 5 to 12 – The primary and middle school years. Sports day victories (not just participation), awards, and house points are all things to be celebrated and applauded.

Years 13 to 18 – Ah, high school. Good exam results, hard work and getting a weekend job are wonderful accomplishments that are demonstrative of the fact that you have raised a sensible, useful member of the human race. Take a second to pat your own back here too, and yes I really mean that. Those of you who have introduced an intelligent, independent and well-rounded human to the world should be heralded as pioneers!

After this, whatever they do is down to them and they need to issue self-praise as adults who are aware of their responsibilities, capabilities and limitations.

I know what you’re thinking: I clearly don’t have children otherwise I would understand the desire to lavish praise. Just because the latest fad in parenting seems to be a cloying desperation to support any and all dreams, it doesn’t mean I’m not a parent because I actively reject this methodology. Perhaps I take a more naturalised view and think that praise is due when something has been worked for, accomplished and is tinged with pride. And here is the crux of the matter… pride.

The false sense of pride and entitlement that children are thrust into this world with is an abomination, and parents I am blaming you. “Oh how delightful, Tarquin ate his entire satsuma!” Please, I ate three this morning with my breakfast, where’s my medal? I did it because my mother taught me that fruit is healthy. I didn’t text her to tell her I ate them, but something tells me this is the future for your children. How about telling darling little Tarquin when he reaches for a chocolate bar, that if he eats too many he will end up morbidly obese, a drain on health services and without feet because he will have diabetes that went untreated because mummy didn’t tell him to get checked out?

Love is important. Nurturing is beautiful. False praise is death to evolution. To end this article, because I need a lie down after writing it, I will recap a genuine conversation I had with a former friend in a café that served mushroom tea.

Friend: You know, I have to admit that having Sproggykins really has been the best accomplishment of my life. I never thought I’d have the strength to have a child, but here I am, doing it!

Pause for dramatic effect and, I suspect, a round of applause from me.

 Me: Well you do seem happy, so that’s great.

Friend: I am, I really am. It’s like my whole life has been leading up to this one perfect moment and I’m not going to waste a second of it. We took Sproggykins for her first proper haircut last week and she was so good that we’ve bought her a pony so she can learn to ride as soon as possible.

Me: Isn’t she only just two?

Friend: Well, you can’t start too early and she really was ever so good. No tears and she let me hold her still the whole time and she looks so beautiful… I might have a future Miss World on my hands!

I’m out of the door, mushroom tea untouched.

by M. Baxter

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