We are ALL Dr. Babooner
Dear Dr. Babooner,
I was not at all surprised to learn yesterday that researchers have found evidence to support what we already know to be true about over-indulgent parents – that they turn their children into selfish, sniveling little narcissists by showering them with false praise.
My child is an adult now, but when she was in elementary school I was appalled at the way the other parents hovered over their young, pumping them up with unearned compliments for work that was mediocre at best.
For example, I was volunteering as a classroom helper in the third grade when my little Emily produced a vivid colored-pencil portrait of her art teacher. Because I firmly believed then, (as I do now), that we spoil our children by exaggerating their accomplishments, I simply told her it was “… the best thing I’d seen produced in the room that afternoon.”
That was an undeniably true statement. Of course it was MUCH better than that – she could produce college level work in terms of perspective, composition and shading – but by measuring it only against the art created by her classmates I was purposely downplaying Emily’s talent as a way to get her to try harder the next time.
Mere moments later, the other parent in the room held up her son Jimmy’s chaotic rendering of a bowl of fruit and declared in front of the entire room that it was a work of pure genius – worthy of the great European colored-pencil masters of the renaissance. We all nodded in support of this ludicrous claim so as not to embarrass this helicopter mommy and her incompetent, blotch-scrawling offspring, but really! Next to Emily’s splendid teacher-portrait, Jimmy’s fruit bowl was a ghastly mess.
I could see that Emily was confused, and for that matter so was Jimmy. To have his meager attempt at art praised over her superb accomplishment was confounding to everyone who could recognize the raw touch of a genuine master.
In other words, it baffled everyone.
Years later, Jimmy has become exactly the kind of self-indulgent adult I expected to see – a flamboyant do-gooder who is always drawing attention to his accomplishments by mentoring youngsters, caring for stray animals, raising money for social causes, and working as a paramedic and first-responder to save the lives of people who invariably turn around and praise him in exactly the same extravagant way his mother did all those years ago.
I would tell you how much better off Emily is, but she has instructed me to stop discussing her with other people, especially strangers. Which just shows you how modest and grounded she has become!
Dr. Babooner, why aren’t more people as good a parent as I am?
Darn Impressive Parent of a Perfect Youth
I told D.I.P.P.Y. she has no real reason to gloat. Every parent believes he or she is doing it right and everybody else is wrong. And while I won’t say her techniques are completely sub-par, I do think she might benefit by staying focused on her own work rather than judging others.
But that’s just one opinion. What do YOU think, Dr. Babooner?