In today’s WSJ a review of the new book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, the authors survey the newest findings in child development. Among them, the 15,000 scholarly articles that defend the self-esteem theory that swept the nation in the 80s has been overturned with data that demonstrate self-esteem-talks bolster laziness and boost anxiety in adults who constantly feel the pressure to incessantly praise.
From the article: A striking example is the latest research on self-esteem. As Mr. Bronson and Ms. Merryman remind us, the psychologist Nathaniel Brandon published a path-breaking paper in 1969 called “The Psychology of Self-Esteem” in which he argued that feelings of self-worth were a key to success in life. The theory became a big hit in the nation’s schools; in the mid-1980s, the California Legislature even established a self-esteem task force. . . . And what do they show? That high self-esteem doesn’t improve grades, reduce anti-social behavior, deter alcohol drinking or do much of anything good for kids. In fact, telling kids how smart they are can be counterproductive. Many children who are convinced that they are little geniuses tend not to put much effort into their work. Others are troubled by the latent anxiety of adults who feel it necessary to praise them constantly.
Beyond the self-esteem results, research also discovered kids lie, so do teens, and also adults. And they shoot holes in the D.A.R.E. program that received more funding in schools than science labs.