Failed parenting strategies for millennial’s: Simon Sinek is partially wrong

A viral video has been circulating around the internet where Simon Sinek shared his thoughts on Millennials and the issues corporations have had in working with them. His interview provides some very insightful points about technology and psychology but what is most interesting to me is the idea he presents about failed parenting strategies including the over use of praise for children.

In the interview Millennials are described as the generation born around 1984. Sinek states that this generation are “accused of being entitled, narcissistic and self interested, unfocused and lazy.” He goes on to talk about what made them this way. This included parent’s telling their children that they could “do anything and be anything they wanted.” Most of his conclusion focuses on parent’s who praised their children for everything. If you haven’t seen the video you can see it below.

Sinek is partially right

Most parents use general praise. General praise is saying things like, “Good job!” or “Well done!” to a child. General praise is easy, short, but ineffective. It can also lead to the child inferring that they, not their behavior, is the reason for the praise. This can lead to confusion about their own self-worth and self-esteem. Praise your child for their behaviors and their self-esteem will grow from knowing they are able to complete tasks and behave appropriately.

What your child DOES and who your child IS are two different things. Praise should be focused on what your child accomplishes or how they appropriately respond to disappointments and success. This will build their self-esteem around their own accomplishments and they will be far more resilient to overcoming disappointments.

Effective Praise includes a few more steps than general praise, but it changes that general praise into something more powerful. The steps to Effective Praise are:

  • Show your approval or find something positive they are doing.
  • Describe the positive behavior.
  • Give a meaningful reason for your child to repeat that behavior in the future.
  • Optional to give a reward (should match the size of the behavior)

The differences are in step 2 and 3. Describing the positive behavior helps your child have a clear understanding of what they did correctly. It makes it easier for them to connect what they did with the praise. To strengthen the connection, using step 3, give a meaningful reason for the behavior, helps your child understand why doing that specific behavior is beneficial to them. Your child will be more likely repeat the positive behavior in the future because they associate it with the praise.

Where Sinek got it wrong

It wasn’t an over abundance of praise that was the problem. The problem stems from using praise incorrectly and for way too long. Consistently using general praise sends confusing messages and that leads to confused children.

Children need praise. Adults need praise. We all crave it. My suggestions to parents is to constantly seek ways to praise children’s accomplishments and praise them when they deal with disappointments. Use Effective Praise often. Be deliberate about how you do it.

Effective Praise builds relationships

Using Effective Praise will help build your relationship. Effective Praise will teach them what was done correctly and why they should repeat that behavior. It avoids the problem of children misplacing the positive praise between what they did well and who they are. Remember to praise for behaviors and accomplishments as well as the appropriate ways we deal with disappointments. This helps parents raise resilient children with positive self esteem.

For more information, watch the Effective Praise lesson on the Smarter Parenting website.

Siope Kinikini, LCMHC, is the Director of Smarter Parenting and a licensed Mental Health therapist who has worked with parents, children and families become more resilient and successful.

Siope Kinikini

I’m a dad. I enjoy being a dad. I like things to do things that are challenging as well. I’m especially fond of mint-chocolate chip ice cream.

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