"Praising Obsession" Creating Generation of Narcissists

Teachers “obsessed with praising” are creating a generation of egotistical pupils, a child psychologist has warned. By Urmee Khan Last Updated: 12:55PM GMT 15 Mar 2009

School staff and parents feel they cannot criticise their children for fear of upsetting them, according to Dr Carol Craig, leaving them with an “all about me” mentality.

Mothers and fathers now often tell teachers that it is “bad for his self-esteem” if their son fails a spelling test, or that their daughter is left “unhappy” by missing out on a part in the school pantomime, she claimed.

Dr Craig called the self-esteem agenda, which has been imported from the United States, a “fashionable idea” that has gone too far and urged schools to reclaim their role as educators, not psychologists.

Since 2007, there has been a statutory responsibility on all schools in England to improve pupils’ wellbeing. Primary and secondary schools are increasingly teaching social and emotional skills, which include teaching children how to “make and sustain friendships without hurting others.”

Ofsted, the schools inspectorate, is expected to start measuring how successful they are in this area with indicators such as teenage pregnancy.

But Dr Craig, chief executive of the centre for confidence and wellbeing in Glasgow, said: “We are wrong in thinking we have to get the ‘I’ bigger. If we say to people the most important thing is how you feel about yourself, then if a child fails maths and feels bad, it is very tempting for them to blame it on others like teachers and parents.

“Parents no longer want to hear if their children have done anything wrong. This is the downside of the self-esteem agenda. The problem is that if you tell parents that its incredibly important that children feel good all the time, we will get people going out of the way to boost children’s self esteem all the time.”

She said an obsession with children’s self esteem was breeding narcissism.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Birmingham, Dr Craig said: “Narcissists make terrible relationship partners, parents and employees. It’s not a positive characteristic. We are in danger of encouraging this.

“And we are kidding ourselves if we think that we aren’t going to undermine learning if we restrict criticism.”

The conference heard how a maths teacher in one school had corrected a pupil who had placed a zero in the wrong place. The pupil replied: “Thank you, but I prefer it my way.”

Dr Craig went on: “Schools have to hold out that they are educational establishments.

“They are not surrogate psychologists or mental health professionals.

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families, defended the Government’s focus on wellbeing, however.

“Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL) helps schools to create a safe and emotional healthy school environment where pupils can learn effectively. The skills help pupils to be confident individuals who are able to live safe, healthy and fulfilling lives and responsible citizens who can make a positive contribution to society.

“There is convincing international evidence to show that social and emotional learning programmes like SEAL can help to improve children’s behaviour, wellbeing and attainment. The Institute of Education evaluation of the primary school SEAL pilot in this country found it had a major impact on attitudes to school and was also associated with improvements in attainment.”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/4995301/Praising-obsession-creates-generation-of-egotistical-pupils.html