Friday, February 18, 2005

This post doesn't make me feel good about myself

USA Today has a pretty good article about the "self-esteem" generation.

Yep, life'll burst that self-esteem bubble
By Sharon Jayson, USA TODAY

Andrea Sobel shudders at those oh-so-positive messages aimed at boosting kids' self-esteem. She has heard her fill of "good job" or "great picture" or any of the highly exaggerated claims that parenting experts and educators spouted as the way to bring up well-adjusted children.

Sobel, the mother of 16-year-old twins in Sherman Oaks, Calif., says they could tell "what was real and what was fake," even when very young. "I was tired of going to the sports field and seeing moms say, 'Great job at going up to bat.' It hit me early on that kids could see through inane compliments."

Those often-empty phrases, however, raised a generation. Kids born in the '70s and '80s are now coming of age. The colorful ribbons and shiny trophies they earned just for participating made them feel special. But now, in college and the workplace, observers are watching them crumble a bit at the first blush of criticism.

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I really see the point in this article. This is something that I've noticed in some of my soldiers. Some of my old NCOs used to call them the "Pepsi Generation". Of course, I'm a GENX slacker so what the hell do I know.

I've always thought that if you felt good about yourself it ought to be because you did something good and not because someone was trying to make you feel good. I had a BN Commander who gave every soldier in a company an AAM for just showing up for AT. I think she did it more because she wanted to feel good about herself than help the soldiers out. When I got my first AAM in the Army, I felt really damn good about it. Actually, I still feel good about it because I busted my ass to deserve it. The award "spam" that I got from my old BN CDR makes my snicker.

I guess the key to being a good leader is identifying who really did a good job and recognizing it. I always liked how at JRTC they had the "Hero of the Battle Award". They'd pull some PFC out from the battalion and put him in front of all the senior NCOs and officers in the BN and talk about how he'd kicked ass. The kid would walk on cloud nine for about a month afterwards. I really believe that its moments like this that make future 1SGs and CSMs.

No matter how bad things are, somebody always does a good job. Its usually the young E-4 or E-5 who keeps on trying and doing his/her job exactly the way they were trained. People always look at the negative, but something always goes right in everything that you do. But, you have to be precise in your praise. I think that's something that the baby-boomers screwed up. It was easier to tell us all that we were special than it was to look hard to what was really special.

As Julie and I embark on this great experiment know as parenthood (we are currently at D-55), I'd like to believe that we'll be the type of people that raise kids who feel good about themselves because they actually accomplish things. I want to teach them how to do things. I'm looking forward to that. That's what I always loved about being on my Grandfather's ranch. There was always something to learn and do.

I guess learning how to fail is one of the most important skills that you can have. I've failed over and over again in life (my whopping 2.9 college GPA being a prime example), and come out okay. I hope my kids learn the same.

We'll see.


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