All about the mind

Positive madness…

This is the age of using positive means to bring up your child. You reward them for the behaviours you want to see. Both at school and at home. At school, kids are given stickers and certificates and other forms of ‘rewards’ for effort, improvement, good behaviour, helping out etc. etc. Yes, consequences are still part of the system but rewards have more importance.

However, I was recently wondering — have we taken this whole positive spin a bit too far?

Hear me out…

I heard some months ago about how children’s sports were trying to be positive and not disappoint kids and therefore not having any winners. Or giving everyone in all teams a trophy. Or just not keeping score. Here’s an article that mentions some of this.

Another area where positivity has gone nuts is in students’ reports here in Australia. Apparently, teachers are not allowed to write anything negative. Resulting in no comments about bad behaviour. Or comments such as “learning to count” rather than having difficulty with numbers or numerical operations. Don’t parents have a right to know where the child is struggling? Isn’t it the right thing to do to highlight a child’s negative behaviour so something can be done about it at home too?

And with the sports, aren’t we teaching kids to be a bit competitive? After all, upon growing up, we don’t win every single thing. People get fired from their jobs. One person can lose a business deal to another. There are winners and losers in elite sports. You can fail a subject at university. You can not get a promotion if you don’t try your best. You may lose out on a promotion to another worker.

So if children are now taught that there is no such thing as losing out on something or failing something, how are they going to cope with situations like these as an adult?

Shouldn’t we be teaching them how to deal with losses as well? How to cope effectively? How to get back up after falling down or hitting a speed bump on the way?

I guess these were all the questions that popped up in my head when I heard about how far we have gone with this whole positivity thing. I mean, I am all for rewarding positive behaviours with attention and praise and ignoring minor irritating behaviours and giving consequences for unacceptable behaviours. But not keeping score for sports? Giving every child a trophy or medal? Not being able to write anything negative in a report?

What do you think? Have you heard of any of these new trends? Have we taken it too far?

Do share!

Until next time,


P.S. On a different note, I think my laptop is dying…the screen goes all pink and green with lines and then it restarts itself a few times. It’s okay for a little bit and then goes funny. So in case I don’t reply to your comments or visit your blogs, that’s the reason. Unless of course, I do cave and buy a new one. Sigh.

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  • Harini
    21 December 2010 at 10:07 am

    I agree with you. I understand not having winners or losers in sports when the kids are very young. But later on they need to know what losing is about. Its important to know that life isnt always a cake walk you somtimes lose but that doent mean end of the world. If kids know this since young they will grow up to accept defeats in life graciously. They will not give up but strive. Thats something you need to teach kids.

  • Richa
    21 December 2010 at 1:11 pm

    Its positively mad. And its just not Australia, almost the whole of western world is under the grip of this madness. The worst examples I have heard are from UK where kids are going bonkers as there is no punishment or criticism in the schools. Teachers are tied and fed to the wolves, I mean, kids. They have no means of imposing discipline, offer criticism. Somehow they have to motivate kids by all that positive encouragement. all of them. Kids can hit the teacher and yet no punishments, not even a scolding. They can simply do what-so-ever they want.

    In all this hue and cry about being positive, they are forgetting a very important aspect of childhood: discipline. The necessary ingredient to make a positive society.

  • Pesto Sauce
    21 December 2010 at 1:17 pm

    I agree. In Oman they can’t fail students and the quality of students/professionals is pathetic!!

  • Kim
    21 December 2010 at 1:56 pm

    I totally agree with you that it has gone a bit too far the other way. Kids have no way to handle defeat or loss and the parents are not helping teachers and educators by sugarcoating problems. Sad. Good luck with your computer!

  • Titaxy
    21 December 2010 at 4:30 pm

    I agree with you. I do feel like things are being stretched a little too much on the positivity thing. Why does it have to be one extreme or the other? Why cant one find a fine balance where kids can be taught the positive side of competition too?

  • Jake
    21 December 2010 at 4:38 pm

    I was just thinking about something similar to this , to be brief about the negative aspects of competition. For a long time now I have been of the opinion that competition is ruining the world, but then every now and then someone points out why we need grades and how healthy competition is required to keep things on an even keel and I run out words 🙂 .

    Here’s what I don’t like about competition , a lot people misuse it to project
    a false “superior” image. Now I can’t think of an example for this in the grading system in schools , but there are a lot of examples for it in popular culture.

    – Consider the way record labels sign/drop artists. Its all about numbers,
    they look at how many records the artist has sold or what their fan following is like. The bigger the no, the better cuz that would obviously mean both parties get to make a lot of money right ?. The problem is its not as cut and dry as that, there could a million reasons why the artist does not have a huge fan base or has not sold a lot of records, from bad marketing to not getting enough exposure. But unfortunately the label never considers any of that.

    – Microsoft, the company is a poster child for the very same concept. Now I love windows, but lets be really honest its not the best OS out there, but Microsoft has marketing tactics which are so good that people are kinda forced to use it even if they don’t want to cuz they don’t really have a lot of options. Don’t give me the “well why don’t you use mac or Linux argument”
    for this, if you know a version of linux that will let me run every single third party app that I use on windows , let me know, cuz I’ve been looking for it
    for more than a decade now and it just does not exist.

    But with all the being said, when you think about how planets compete with each other for a stable orbit around their parent star during the formation of a solar system ….some win and the others…well they get thrown out into space or end up as nomadic asteroids. So when there’s healthy competition within nature itself, trying to mould out a utopian society and putting a positive spin on everything is pretty ignorant . I guess the question is where do we draw the line ?

    – Do we need grades or some other way of evaluating a child’s performance so that they do get the chance to work on subjects they are not very good at ?

    – Should we measure art by the no of records a musician sells ? if not what’s the better way of doing it so that the label does get to earn back the capital it invested into the artist.

    – How do we carve out a system that will ensure us that we get to buy products that are worth every penny we spend

  • Scribbler
    22 December 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I think re report card what schools should make compulsory is for teachers to talk to parents frankly and let them know where their child lacks…as far as writing on the report card in a subtle language will help in long run: like when today you re-open your report cards of yesteryears you see the remarks given by teachers then you recall how as a child you performed..positive remarks certainly make you feel proud of yourself/happy even today and vice versa…

    I’ve still kept my report cards from the very start and today also when I read the remarks I feel great about it…though I’ve remarks written all over like ‘very talkative’ but that’s okay,isn’t it ? But imagine if I would have report cards mentioning negative things I would have probably not want to re-read them today…just may be!

    re sports and no winning race.I think yes it might not make children well equipped for the future failures of life when they grow up…

    I think balancing things is the key of every lock even positivity requires balancing…

  • Blu
    23 December 2010 at 9:26 am

    I think It’s terrible. I haven’t heard of it. I think many things have gone to far with raising kids these days… It’s really making me upset… My experience of growing up wasn’t perfect but at least there were some basic common sense there…

    How could you not let a child experiencing losing? They will be growing up and will not know how to cope when they fail.

    Oh dear, looks like you will need a new laptop :(…

  • starsinmeyes
    24 December 2010 at 7:09 am

    I think we give too much importance to success and happiness. Children need to be taught how to cope with difficulty, failure, unhappiness, not-nice peers and teachers and other adults…if we don’t we’re failing them. Period.

    The sense of entitlement in kids is huge these days…I struggle with this with my kids…and am glad they’re in a no-nonsense school where there’s a good balance and competition (at least by the school) is handled sensisbly. The parents’ cut-throat sense of competition is something else tho’…many need counseling…they’re insanely pushing even 6 year olds. One thing I’d like to get my kids’ school to do though, is to also have a medal/certificate for kids who’ve made a big leap from poor grades to good ones…it’s a confidence booster and motivator for the struggling child, and a lesson in humility for the consistent toppers….that you can get kudos for hard work and progress even without being at the very top.

    Fabulous post and topic.

  • S.R.Ayyangar
    24 December 2010 at 1:50 pm

    Gone are the days when we used to get canning for not doing homework or making noise in the class. Even my professor in graduate level used to ask the students to get out of class or stand up on the bench. No student used to get upset or no parents used to make a hue & cry.But now the students have become so sensitive that even a minor punishment makes them depressed and even makes them to commit suicide!