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Honest Parenting

When it comes to rewarding our kids, I can't help but wonder if all the trophies and praise are doing more harm than good.

Whether its coaches giving medals to the entire soccer team with a losing record, teachers using "friendly" colors to grade papers instead of red, or parents who never give constructive reviews, I'm just not sure I agree with excessive praise. Sounds awful of me, right?

My generation wasn't raised with tons of rewards. Personally, I was expected to work hard for my successes and feel lucky to have been consistently encouraged to do better. And for me, losing stung (it still does). Seeing others do better than me was hard to digest. But you know what? It made me work harder!

I recently was asked to speak at a women's leadership conference and when writing my speech, I reflected on a number of events that brought me to where I am now. Admittedly, I doubted myself when it was first suggested I become a CEO. But it was hearing from someone else that I was capable of this role that made me know I could do it. After so many years of honest feedback, when someone gives me praise, I believe them. (You can watch my speech where I talk about crying at work, self-doubt and game faces.)

So I ask you: Would you rather have your kid grow up with a little false confidence  - or a little self-doubt? I'd choose self-doubt... and let me tell you why.

First of all, I call it healthy humility. I want my kids to believe in their strengths, but know their weaknesses. Everyone has them. But it's how you push past your personal challenges that make you a fighter. In fact, knowing your weaknesses is really a strength.

I believe my job as a parent is to give my kids the skills and drive to succeed. It's to boost their confidence, but also to be honest with them and give them strategies for how they can work harder and bounce back from defeat. My husband and I are our kids' biggest fans, cheering for them, hugging them, loving them. We're honest when we think they did their best. And we're honest when we think they didn't.

But if they're looking for a reward after a mediocre job, it won't come from us. Let's face it, it can be a harsh and challenging world out there, and it doesn't do our kids - or society - any good to send them into it with inflated egos.

While I don't want to raise our kids exactly how I was raised, I know that years of hearing my strengths and weaknesses have humbled me. I still work every day to be a better boss, mentor, wife and mom. And now, I strive to raise my own kids to believe me when I say, "You were awesome" because they've also heard me say "I think you could have done better."

Too harsh? Tell me your thoughts. Do you ever feel bad for giving your kids the honest truth? Do your kids receive praise and trophies from coaches and teachers for everything that they do? At what age is this okay - and when do we start being (a little) more honest?

Cheers,
Sheila
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