I’m not sure why, but “talking” toys always make me smile. So when my daughter and I saw Mr. Wonderful in the aisle of the checkout lane, I squeezed his hand. He promptly shouted, “You look beautiful!” Thank you, Mr. Wonderful!
I’m not sure why, but “talking” toys always make me smile. So when my daughter and I saw Mr. Wonderful in the aisle of the checkout lane, I squeezed his hand. He promptly shouted, “You look beautiful!” Thank you, Mr. Wonderful! It was a great mood elevator that day, and some days, you just can’t get enough praise.
Earlier in the day, I read on washingtonpost.com about a bright red-and-white striped box that is part of the public arts collection for the Washington Project for the Arts/Corcoran on 14th Street in D.C. “The Compliment Machine” is perched on a platform of bricks with a speaker at eye level and a grid of ventilation holes in the side. When Washingtonians walk past, the machine calls out words of gratitude such as, “Your eyes are beautiful,” “You are always there when needed” or “People are drawn to your positive energy.” The installation was conceived as a response to an entitlement culture in which everyone is exceptional, no one can be criticized and you get an award just for being yourself.
When a recent Wall Street Journal article suggested that our beloved Mr. Rogers is to blame for a generation of young adults who feel entitled to praise “just because,” I wondered if there might be something to that argument. The author believes that, though Mr. Rogers meant well, his philosophy may have stifled the notion that hard work and high expectations resulted in achievement. On one extreme, some of Rogers’ young acolytes may have missed that point and took to heart that they only had to please themselves and the world would be theirs.
Don’t get me wrong—I loved Mr. Rogers and still do. He was an exceptional human being. And I felt special right along with my children when we watched him put his sweater on inside-out, only to shrug and say, “Oops, it can happen to anyone. It’s OK…I like you just the way you are.”
But where is the competition…where is the work ethic if everyone is celebrated for “just showing up?” These days, bosses, professors, parents and spouses feel the need to extol praise on this generation, just because.
“America’s praise fixation has economic, labor and social ramifications. Adults who were overpraised as children are apt to be narcissistic at work and in personal relationships,” says Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University. When everyone gets a happy face, even when they don’t deserve it, where’s the reward?
Supporting your child as he or she goes back to school or begins a new job, or encouraging your spouse on a “bad hair day”—such praise is essential for those closest to us. And I do hope there are other Rogers-like icons for today’s toddlers to look up to. For sure, most of us need a regular dose of affirmation, but we aren’t entitled to it just because we breathe.
In a world of confusion, war and terror we need to not only hear the words, “You are special,” but we also need to believe in them. TPW