What an honor to meet this mega-bestselling author in person in Los Angeles and crank out an interesting podcast!
Ashley has been spreading the word about her two very important books for over a decade, speaking and consulting internationally to sports teams, business leaders, and parent and school groups. She also operates a cool non-profit tutoring program for inner city kids in LA. Her books, written with Stanford professor Po Bronson, have rocked our world and make us rethink the most basic notions about parenting and the nature of healthy competition. Interested researchers and readers are transcending dated and harmful cultural values and embraced the new possibilities communicated wonderfully by Ashley and Po.
The first book was called Nurtureshock: New Thinking About Children. The world of Carol Dweck, Stanford professor and author of Mindset, was highlighted. The idea that this effusive praise, obsession with boosting self-esteem, and helicopter parenting to ensure kids don’t suffer or fail was called into question. Kids need healthy struggle and setbacks to grow and develop resilience and determination. They benefit from adopting a “growth mindset,” where the emphasis is on effort and improvement rather than results. The research from Nurtureshock was the inspiration for the next book, Top Dog. If you are interested in competition and peak performance in any area (business, athletics, parenting), this book will provide lasting insights and strategies to be the best you can be, and not succumb to the dangers of a lame, ineffective approach to competition.
Interestingly, Ashley relates that she has been rethinking the emphasis placed on effort and instead prefers to focus on improvement. We all know how misdirected effort may not lead to improvement and can even be unhealthy—such as with an overtrained athlete or the college student who pulls all-nighters and eats Top Ramen in the name of delivering maximum effort. In these examples, excess effort or a narrow focus on effort alone will not lead to success or happiness. Reference my podcast about the Japanese Soccer Team and the Japanese cultural ethic of doryoku, translated as honorable effort. You could infer this means dispensing effort in a focused and productive manner to stimulate improvement.
Ashley garnered attention years ago for stating that the long-standing practice of giving every kid a trophy is a bad idea. After much reflection and controversy, Ashley is more certain than ever that this is a really bad idea! Listen to her go off about the many ways in which our cultural trophy policy cheapens the experience for everyone.
We also get into the groundbreaking article that changed my mindset and approach to parenting on the spot when I first read it in 2007. It’s called the Inverse Power of Praise and I did a blog post about it that I send to anyone who will listen. This article led to the NurtureShock book project. The article calls into question the self-esteem movement that has led to the widespread concerns about helicopter parenting today. Ashley talks about how to set rewards to generate optimum outcomes for competition. A local 5k promoting a healthy community (everyone gets a finisher medal, that’s fine), versus a contest to discover the most distinguished performers. A college application process for an Ivy League admission could be a good example: many competitors, few prizes.
You will love this show and be compelled to grab these books and go in for a deep immersion. Following is some details about Ashley and Po’s work, and accolades, to get you excited about Ashley and Po’s work: Ashley and Po have won nine national awards for reporting. Merryman’s been on countless radio and television shows, while email, Facebook, and Twitter are filled with demands to read her essays, such as “Losing is Good for You,” “How Not to Talk to Your Kids,” and “Creativity Crisis.” Among the awards for Top Dog was a “Best Book of the Month” by both Barnes & Noble and Amazon, while Salary.com said it was the #1 book that every entrepreneur must read.
Top Dog is an astonishing blend of science and storytelling that reveals what’s really in the heart of a champion. It’s about the thrill of victory and the character-building agony of defeat. Testosterone and the neuroscience of mistakes. Why rivals motivate. How home field advantage gets you a raise. What teamwork really requires. It’s baseball, Wall Street financial analysts, the SAT, sales contests, and Linux software. How before da Vinci and FedEx were innovators, first, they were great competitors. Olympians, professional athletes, and their coaches are already carrying Top Dog around in gym bags. It’s in the briefcases of Wall Street traders and Madison Ave. madmen. Professional risk takers – from Silicon Valley venture capitalists to Vegas gamblers – are racing to master its ideas, while educators and philosophers are debating it the halls of academia.
Merryman and Bronson’s previous book, NurtureShock: New Thinking About Children, is also a New York Times bestseller, translated into sixteen languages to date. But beyond that, it has become one of the most influential books about children ever been published. With impeccable storytelling and razor-sharp analysis, Merryman and Bronson demonstrate that many of modern society’s strategies for nurturing children are in fact backfiring–because key twists in the science have been overlooked.
Merryman has written for Newsweek, Time, the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York, the Guardian, and many more. A frequent commentator on radio and television, Merryman has appeared on shows such as: Fox & Friends; CNN’s AC 360 and CNN Newsroom; The Charlie Rose Show; The Tavis Smiley Show; @KatieCouric; Canada AM; BBC World News; NPR’s Tell Me More and On Point; and many others around the world.
Honors for Merryman and Bronson include: the PEN Center USA Literary Award for Journalism; the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Award for Science Journalism; an “Audie” from the Audio Publishers Association; and two Clarion Awards. And their work is considered so substantial that scientists themselves rely on their reporting. Their work has been cited as a research authority in 80 academic journals and 260 books, and it is being used as text in universities around the world. You’ll find references to their work in publications by the White House to speeches by politicians around the globe.
Merryman lives in Los Angeles, where she has directed a small all-volunteer tutoring program for inner-city kids for 15 years; in that time, her program has helped over 800 children. For her civic involvement, she received commendations from both the Clinton and Bush Administrations. An attorney, Merryman previously served as a speechwriter in the Clinton Administration. Merryman holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Southern California’s School of Cinematic Arts, a J.D. from the Georgetown University’s Law Center, and a Certificate in Irish Studies from Queen’s University, Belfast, Northern Ireland.
Introducing Ashley Merryman and her theories create interest in new thinking about children. [02:09]
What is her life like with her writing books and having them published? [06:10]
After the books were published, there was much controversy. [10:13]
What is “effort-based praise?’ [11:15]
What about those who are gifted? [16:10]
Focus on improvement and the effort. [17:56]
Even if you win, there is much to reflect on. [21:48]
Should everyone get a trophy? [25:05]
It’s getting so people think don’t even go home unless you have a trophy. [32:07]
It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you played the game. [36:00]
If you believe you are inherently good, you think you’re entitled to the win, and if you’re entitled to the win, it doesn’t matter how you got there. [37:37]
The Award and Recognition Industry is a $3 billion industry. [39:29]
- You don’t want to focus on who someone is, but what they do.
- Look at your performance and ask, “Is this working or not working?”
- Some of the best things in the world we do, we do not because of public recognition, we do them because it’s the right thing to do.
LISTEN:Download Episode MP3
Get Over Yourself Podcast
Brad: 00:00:08 Welcome to the get over yourself podcast. This is author and athlete, Brad Kearns, discovering ways to be healthy, fit and happy it hectic, high-stress, modern life. So let’s slow down and take a deep breath. Take a cold plunge and expertly balanced that competitive intensity with an appreciation of the journey. That’s the theme of the show. Here we go.
Ashley: 00:01:27 We don’t want to blend praise and affection, affection, conditional based on pizza and we don’t want to make praise and encouragement the same thing because again, then you’re praising didn’t there. If you want more people participating, then you want to give out more trophies. If your goal is to find out who’s the back now you get fewer trophies and the prices are deeper. Oh, you wanted to join soccer cause he wanted to have fun and run around and play with your kids. . No, that’s not good enough. You have to have a trophy. You have to have public recognition of your greatness can make that activity and worth your time.
Brad: 00:03:34 Welcome to my wonderful podcast with Ashley Merryman, New York Times best selling author thought leader, an influencer of modern culture. Her work along with her coauthor Po Bronson, a Stanford professor has caused us to rethink many of the basic notions that we have held near and dear about parenting and about the nature of healthy competition. Her books are called NutureShock about parenting, rethinking our ideals about parenting. And the second book calledTop Dog about the science of competition. These were runaway New York Times bestsellers, had a lot of attention and interest. Ashley has been traveling the globe doing consulting for corporations, athletic teams, and giving speeches to interested audiences who are willing to rethink some of these basic notions. I recall reading this wonderful article in New York Magazine in 2007 called The Inverse Power of Praise: How Not to Talk to Your Kids. And this article led to the book project NurtureShock, talking about these basic ideals that emanated from the self esteem movement, how you want to boost your kids’ self esteem by telling them they’re wonderful and giving every kid a trophy when they participate in sports.
Brad: 00:04:54 And pretty soon we enter the helicopter parent age where we are now recognizing all manner of fallout relating to this lovie dovie type of parenting where we try to shield our kids from the trials and tribulations and competitive intensity of daily life. The NurtureShock book led to the research done for that led to the next book called Top Dog, which was an absolutely fascinating account of competition, the science of competition. What’s an appropriate competition structure to achieve the desired goals? Ashley talks all through these concepts. It’s a fast paced, fast moving podcast. Lots of fun stuff. Um, she likes to go off on this concept of every kid gets a trophy. She got roundly criticized when she first said it years ago. And so she’s had time to reflect and think further and now she’s even more convinced that this is a terrible idea. Why? Lots of reasons why one of them is these things end up in landfills and they don’t biodegrade cause they’re all plastic. Fascinating account of how this whole trophy obsession started. You got to listen to the show to go deep. Thank you. Enjoy.
Brad: 00:06:10 Ashley Merryman, we’re warmed up or fired up. We talked offline about some sports topics. I love how you’re a sports fan too, but we got some, we got some big issues to discuss. Okay. Uh, first of all, I want to know how the journey’s gone from, this is now almost 10 years ago and that you got NurtureShock and then Top Dog. These two big time books that you and Po Bronson wrote. What’s that? What’s that run been like? I mean tell us like as an author first you’re buried crank in these books, working hard, doing the research. I know that’s a big part of your, your style of writing and then the books out. And then do you sit and rest on a beach or are there others?
Ashley: 00:06:53 Um, no I don’t. Well, occasionally I jog on the beach and then I’m pretty excited that I made it. The, um, no, I kind of joke that it’s sort of a bipolar assistance because, you know, a good day when I’m working on a, you know, an article or on a book is me laying on a couch with a pile of three or 4,000 pages of scientific journals are really fun day is going to a scientific conference and running around and meeting the people whose papers I’ve read and hounding them with stupid questions. That’s all that is like the best day. And, um, but a lot of, you know, writing is a pretty solitary thing and you know, I’m, if I’m on the phone with someone for a few minutes for an interview, that may be the only human contact I had during that work day. And I’m thinking, I’m working on writing and um, but it’s, it’s pretty quiet.
Ashley: 00:07:47 And then the book comes out and it’s a year or two speaking and interacting with humans. And I, that’s very fascinating and exciting when you haven’t done that for a year and all of a sudden you’re like, wow, look at all these people I’ve read about you. I’ve written about you people. Hmm. Oh my gosh, you’re, you’re people are just like what I read about that. That’s so cool. So yeah, I think I call it a bipolar resistance and I’m, but I love both of it actually. I love the learning. I love knowing something that I didn’t even know was it possible issue the day before and now all of a sudden my whole world looks different. But then being able to actually talk to people, whether it’s one on one or giving a speech and you know how you communicate something’s different one on one and you know, verbally than it is on the page.
Ashley: 00:08:42 But it’s also then that an immediate feel bad if you know the, the feedback does that resonate with you? You know, when you write an article, you hope it lands when you write an order, you know a buck. You hope that made sense. Peter, we’re really, until someone sends you an email that there was a typo on page blank, my bank, you know, if you’re giving a speech and you see a bunch of people nodding or laughing or looking at you like are you completely crazy? It’s a very different experience that you get a more in real time
Brad: 00:09:10 I can to get competent both. I think they probably compliment each other. Um,
Ashley: 00:09:15 yeah, I think so. I mean I think that, you know, I don’t know if everybody likes both. I think some people really like the writing part and some people really like the speaking and stuff. I like, I liked both of them for different ways. I think both of them challenge me and if they challenge me, hopefully that makes me better in both directions.
Brad: 00:09:34 What kind of groups are you generally talking to?
Ashley: 00:09:39 Well, I think that um, yes we have, as you mentioned, two books, NurtureShock and Top Dog and the audience is often tend to sort of split between the two of them. So a parenting organization or a school or a teachers group would want me to talk about something maybe NurtureShock and then you know, sports teams, parenting coaching groups, business leaders will want to talk about high performance and performing under pressure and those kinds of issues that we talk about Top Dog. But then there’s obviously some overlap too.
Brad: 00:10:13 Yeah. So in NurtureShock, we, uh, we’re compelled to second guess a lot of these longstanding notions about parenting that turn out they might not be so healthy and uh, some of them are kind of, uh, people still not awakened to this or haven’t even heard about the idea that maybe constantly praising your kid and obsessing with their self esteem is not going to serve them in the long run. So can you talk about just the basic notions that that came out of the gate where you would probably hit with some controversy when the book came out to you and Po Bronson, coauthor?
Ashley: 00:10:49 Uh, yeah. Well, you know, it’s interesting because as you mentioned, it’s almost been about 10 years now, especially if you look, the NurtureShock sort of genesis came from an article that we wrote in New York magazine and that’s sort of the reaction of it was sort of amazingly huge.
Brad: 00:11:10 Is this the inverse power of praise?
Ashley: 00:11:12 Yes. Okay. That was before the book. That was before though.
Brad: 00:11:15 I didn’t realize. Yeah, I’ve got to tell you, like I read that and it changed my life on the spot. I read it in 2007 and I think about it as a parent probably every single day since then one way, shape or form and just catching and reflecting on the way that you communicate it was, it was huge. And I guess the effort based praise was the big, the big takeaway there, or what was the thing that kind of kicked off the book idea because of the reaction?
Ashley: 00:11:41 Um, well, we definitely, you know, we were reading and I had read Carol’s work, Carol Dweck, I’m a researcher at, she was at Columbia and now she’s at Stanford. And how you should not tell kids they’re smart. You should tell them that they worked hard and the differences there, I’m going as short as I possibly can cause a bunch of you probably already know this,
Brad: 00:12:04 Shock your ass off. I don’t know.
Ashley: 00:12:09 Interesting actually the reason it’s kind of um, you know, I’m never quite sure like does everybody know this? or just nobody know this?
Brad: 00:12:15 It’s so obvious.
Ashley: 00:12:17 Well no it’s not actually that. I was at a scientific conference last year at the American psychological association and two separate presenters mentioned that that it can take about 10 years for a research finding to actually become widespread accepted and clinical practice. And I, I heard that number and I was like, that’s just terrible. And it was interesting that two separate unrelated, and I don’t actually know if there was a study to actually determine that, but that seems to be the rule of thumb. And at first I thought that was just completely insane and almost tragic because if I have, if there’s good research on how to help someone, it’s really sad that it can take a decade to get it out there. And then I thought about NurtureShock and then, you know, I’d written it about 10 years ago and there’s still people who are saying, wow, I shouldn’t stop telling me I should stop telling my kid they’re brilliant all the time. And I’m like, yeah, actually that’s a really bad thing. And Oh yeah, look 10 years.
Ashley: 00:13:18 But the reason that, skipping some of the underlying mechanisms, if you want, I can, but the, the top thing they think is important in what reminds me every day just like you, is that whether it’s praise or feed or failure feedback, either direction, you don’t want to be focusing on who someone is, but what they do. Because I can’t change who I am, but I can change what I do. I have control over those actions. So when you tell a kid, you’re so smart, when you tell an athlete you’re a natural athlete or you’re not, or you’re tell someone else, your natural Klutz. The answers. Okay.
Ashley: 00:14:01 Yeah. What do I do with that information? Pack up and go home. Right?
Brad: 00:14:06 Obviously we don’t want to do the negative stuff. You’re a loser kid. The one that we know that doesn’t work, but then a natural athlete. What’s wrong with that? You’re smart. You’re beautiful as a, as a female. Oh boy.
Ashley: 00:14:19 And Carol actually said, you know, we think about it exactly in your point that if a kid’s playing ball in the house and he told them a million times, don’t play ball in the house and the ball breaks a window or breaks a vase, no one thinks the appropriate response to, I broke the vase, was you horrible child. But if that same child comes home and says, Look Mommy, I made a vase in art class. Wonderful Child. Well No, they’re not wonderful for making a vase. They’re not horrible for breaking the vase. They just did something. So you want to respond to what they did because that keeps the control in their corner and, and using those specific tasks. And that’s true for kids. It’s true for grownups. You know, I mean if I told him I was just talking to someone, you know about the science of feedback and if I told you if you were working for me and I was your boss and you said, hey, you’re unreliable, what’s the answer?
Ashley: 00:15:21 Okay, sorry. What do you do? But what are you gonna do about it? And if anything, I just gave you permission to be unreliable. Right? Cause that’s what I expect. Yeah. So I may actually encourage that behavior because you may not have thought you were unreliable, but now you know, that’s what I expect of you. So you may live up, live down to my opinion. So the better thing to say is you’ve been late for three meetings in a row. What’s going on? Because now you can explain to me, Oh, I didn’t know they were that important or I didn’t care or I got caught in traffic or who knows? But now we actually can address three specific things and we can fix them in the future. We can’t fix unreliable. We can’t fix your genius. We can’t see your an idiot. No. You know, all of them I think in some ways are teaching learned helplessness.
Ashley: 00:16:10 They’re all about do you have an innate ability to either succeed or to fail? And the more we’re locating on that innate ability, the more it is. It’s learned helplessness because, you know, I’m like, I hate, and Carol Dweck taught me this, but wow, bad phrase, gifted. The gifted programs are literally telling your child that your success is not up to you. It’s a gift. It could be from your parents, it could be from God, it could be from the universe. But the fact that you can read so well is a gift that someone else gave you. It’s not about the fact that you actually were learning vocabulary words, which is crazy.
Brad: 00:16:51 Yeah, I guess you would have to couch that. If nothing. I mean, you know Lebron James and and people, you get these quotes and they’ll say, you know, I’m, I’m doing, I’m doing the best I can with my gift. Or you know, they feel like their destiny, if they grow to be seven feet tall or a kid comes out and has an extremely high IQ and is skipping grades and getting into college at 15 they understand they have a gift. But the way to kind of couch that is to say, what are you going to do with it? Exactly. Yeah.
Ashley: 00:17:19 And it’s not just saying that people don’t have different abilities and, but you can recognize without, absolutely you can recognize them. I know that I am not a natural athlete. The fact that I made it up here without tripping in the elevator is an achievement, but I can work with the things that I don’t that don’t naturally come to me and I can also work bet and harder on the things that do come to me. And in both cases it’s on me to improve. That’s where the focus needs to be on improvement. It’s not about where I am now, it’s where I want to be.
Brad: 00:17:56 Been thought that’s the key to happiness to is to, is to focus on the effort and on improvement regardless of your, you mean focus on the rank. You said not improvement. Focusing on the effort and on improvement. Improvement. Yeah. Um, yeah.
Ashley: 00:18:14 Well I think that, you know, I, I’ve been trying to back off and an effort just because it’s an example. It’s not the thing for now. It’s the example because effort is something in theory I can control, but if you take anything too far it can become like, it’s some innate ability. You either have or you don’t. So in the US we’re obsessed with smarts. In China there are obsessed with effort and effort, effort, effort. You have to, you know, you have to go to school and then you have to go to study school and then you have to do this and you’ll have to do that.
Ashley: 00:18:50 And Flory a couple in a couple of researchers studied and you know, kids and trying to go, I don’t know, I just can’t work as hard as that other kid. I got to go sleep. So they’re actually believing that the ability to put out effort is something that they don’t have compared to the other kids who were staying up in for extra study that, so any, anything taken too far can be almost taught that it’s an innate ability and you either have it or you don’t. It’s more about focused on what’s on your control and can you improve it over time and, and not be so worried about the result. And I tell athletes and teams that all the time, which is really funny, especially in professional teams because they’re all very clear. You know, the owner really doesn’t want to hear that winning isn’t important. And I always laugh in your, yeah, yeah, I know, I know, I know. But the thing is, I said, okay, if I just keep rambling, the, is that, the thing is if you focus on the result, you don’t realize why you were successful. Sometimes you succeed because the dumb luck,
Ashley: 00:20:06 Sometimes you succeed because the other guy had a bad day. Well you can’t count on the other guy having a bad day the next time you compete. Right? And sometimes you were there just because it’s easy, right? I mean I know Olympians and professional athletes who will flip out because they, they won and they knew the competition. They knew the field, they knew they were going to win. They weren’t there for the, when they were there for a personal best or to qualify for the next round or the next competition. So the idea that they, won means you miss the opportunity to sort of reflect on how you can improve. How did you do better? And I also think it’s really important cause you know, they’re all those, you know, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth. You know,
Brad: 00:20:50 A win’s a win, right?
Ashley: 00:20:52 Don’t fix what ain’t broken, blah, blah, blah. But it’s more constructive. But we naturally talk and take apart or disasters, right? We naturally, oh, we got to rethink how we did this. We don’t want this to happen again. It’s less natural to take apart your win. Again for all those reasons, but if the normal course is win, lose, or draw, we sit here at the table and we talked about what went right and what went wrong. Then it’s less traumatic to do it for the loss because it’s not like, oh well we lost. We better sit down you, you kid, you did badly on the test. We better talk about what just happened and what went wrong. It’s like, no, that’s just what we do. We always talk about how we can improve no matter what. That makes it less of a less of a big deal. It makes it more empowering, less threatening and more engaging.
Brad: 00:21:48 Yeah. He’s the great champions do that. Tiger Woods wins the masters by 12 strokes and then decides to rebuild his swing and fall off from his peak performance level for two years while he’s honing a better swing because he knew that he was relying on great timing and that his, his, his great performance not withstanding, but it’s extremely rare example, like most people who blow away the field and a major or not going to go tweak their swing immediately after.
Ashley: 00:22:16 Right. Well, you know, it’s such an extreme thing because I don’t know if you had asked him at the time, I don’t know, maybe you do, but if you’d asked him, yeah, but you’re not going to win for two more years, would he have said, oh, well maybe there’s a middle ground or maybe there’s a different approach or maybe I should just keep going then. I don’t know. Um, how would be really interesting to ask him. We should tweet them to give you answers. But I think that that, you know, the idea and then, you know, are you willing to sacrifice a period of wins or successes when, you know, you could be successful in favor of that development? I think that’s pretty interesting. I know that there’s, some researchers have looked at like the, um, the evolution of high jumping and the flop and going backwards or forwards.
Ashley: 00:23:07 And how did we do that and be like, oh, that’s just completely crazy. And it’s never going to work. But when you actually look at the history of how they were doing it, it seemed more of a natural progression and not some sort of revolutionary thing. It’s just those of us who only watch, you know, high jump or um, or you know, those kinds of activities during track and field for the Olympics and the national runner didn’t see how it was going for the rear the previous two years of experimentation. But I think that, um, at least a short term willingness to say, is this working or not working and what am I going to do tomorrow is going to be really important. And it’s also just a way to keep yourself engaged. You know? I mean, I think if you’re just, you know, constantly winning and crushing, isn’t that going to get boring at a certain point? You’ve got to figure out some other way to keep yourself motivated.
Brad: 00:23:57 Oh. And if you’re, if you’re, um, uh, uh, dismissing this right now, we’ve got to go and look at the huge sports scene where the parents are so obsessed with winning that they don’t care about, let’s say, pursuing an appropriate level of competition or giving a fair chance to all the kids to, uh, to all focus on improvement. They want to stick the, the good players. And even at high school level where, you know, it’s no longer a, those goals change a little bit from nurturing and development and positive experience too. Um, you know, they, they want to win and they want to get the best they can on the players, but it’s like, um, I always thought with, um, you know, when they, when they have a big lead, um, pull the, uh, pull the quarterback out and put the other guy into throw 20 passes. Because if that big guy gets, gets injured some point during the season, um, you know, you’re going to hope that other guy has experience otherwise the whole team’s gonna suffer. But routinely they’re just going for the padded wins because they’ll up their rankings. Like in the NCAA standings or whatever. And the obsession with winning remains, it’s been 10 years, Ashley. So we gotta we got to figure this,
Ashley: 00:25:05 well 10 years from you is the praise thing. Uh, the winning thing I guess we could say started coming soon. Top Dog. Well, you know, it was actually honey, I didn’t even know we did it on purpose, but we, I don’t think we did. There’s a line in the law in the end of the chapter and NurtureShock on praise where we sort of mentioned everybody gets a trophy and it was almost sort of a rhetorical huh, I wonder if everyone should get a trophy. Oh, that blew up pretty bad. And um, and I didn’t even realize as I was writing it and you know, we were going back and forth, I was just like, oh yeah. And it does move and we just moved on because you know, that it was just something we were sort of, hmm. Well I wonder if that’s consistent.
Ashley: 00:25:53 And then if you think about it, in some ways, Top Dog is a, it’s a whole book about competition. So you can, some ways you could almost say, well, if everybody shouldn’t get a trophy when or why should they? Some ways maybe Top Dog answers that question that I didn’t know I was asking and, but even through the process of writing that book, if you would ask me during writing that book, you know, what do you think about everybody gets trophy programs. Yeah. I’m not so sure. I know there’s this, I don’t know. I don’t think so now I just hate them. Oh really? I hate them so much and my vitriol and hatred just continues to grow with each passing day.
Ashley: 00:26:38 Yeah. And it’s been an amazing progression. Now I’m just so adamantly them and I honestly was not, when I was writing NurtureShock, I was just sort of saying, well how do we praise kids? And, and I, you know, I was ever praising I, I don’t have kids on my own, but I’ve run an inner city tutoring program for 20 years and if a kid made it in the door, genius, you’re amazing. And I mean, these were, this wasn’t even just some random thing. This was my conscious intent, praise them constantly and extravagantly and I’m in a Top Dog. It was still sort of, well how does competition affect performance? How does affect grownups? How does it affect kids? How to, how do prizes affect performance and behavior and conduct in the moment? So I sort of still working it out and yeah, it wasn’t till about a year after Top Dog that I just really, yeah, it all kind of came together and profound hatred of everybody gets a trophy programs.
Ashley: 00:27:45 I’d rather no one get a trophy and everyone gets a trophy.
Brad: 00:27:48 What does it represent when the kid finishes the season and grabs a trophy?
Ashley: 00:27:54 Well, I don’t have a problem with kids getting a trophy and I don’t have a problem with no one getting a trophy. Like I just said. Um, and my, and my point is not that everything should turn out into bloodsport. I am not advocating that every activity is the hunger games. I’m really not. I’m very, I try and I try and be a very nice person then I really want kids to be happy and do the best they can and succeed. So I, um, I guess so it kind of struggle. Like people think I’m, so to me in person, I’m not a monster, but there are a lot of reasons why everybody gets trophy programs are terrible ideas. One is that there was really sort of started, there was sort of this perfect storm of three things that happened in the seventies and eighties.
Ashley: 00:28:45 One was that a sort of an outgrowth of the larger political and social movements, people were trying to figure out how do we get kids who are struggling to succeed? And the State of California actually commissioned a study on self esteem and the original construct of self esteem wasn’t the same as what we thought of. We think of oh no. So it was almost more of a sort of Id/ ego. Who are you? It wasn’t a self esteem means I’m great. It wasn’t the Stuart Smalley wonderful in the mirror thing. Um, so, but, but the construct pretty much came to this idea and the psychological research and then the state task force all sort of had come up with this idea that boosting self esteem would lead to achievement. And that self esteem was actually the most important thing you could do for a child, build their self esteem. So while that, but all of that was just a theory. There was no, at that point, empirical data to support it. It was just a theory at the same time that happened was the rise of plastic mass merchandising and all of a sudden trophies. I mean if you think about an thirties and the forties, a trophy was that big silver loving cup that was at the con the country club in uh, you know, in like the behind the glass, right? Nobody had a trophy at home. A trophy was the thing that, you know, you someday someone’s name was inscribed in the plaque, like the Stanley Cup, but every country club or you know, or the high school or something, you had the trophy case.
Brad: 00:30:24 It was in glass behind glass.
Ashley: 00:30:28 Right. And um, but you didn’t have a million trophies at home cause they were silver. We going afford such a thing? But the turbine manufacturer said, you know, we can make a bunch of these, I don’t really cheap plastic in China. And then they started marketing those in catalogs to teachers. And the teachers who had been just told the thing you can do most important to boost your children’s lives is boosts their self esteem. Now you get a catalog saying for a dollar 99 you can boost your kid, your students, a self esteem. How many trophies would you like? Mall, I’ve got 30 exactly. So you had, and then you, and then you’re actually had the State of California and prevent door. Yes. This is, we want to boost kid self esteem. So you had the sort of storm of things going on, which convinced us everybody needs a trophy for everything; everybody needs a certificate. I tried to figure out how many trophies and certificates were given and I looked a lot of research and I interviewed researchers. How much are we talking about? And the most accurate assessment I could get, this is a quote, millions and millions
Ashley: 00:31:39 Because if you think about it, we don’t even know how many coaches are just going home and printing out 20 certificates and slapping a sticker on them. Right? There’s no way to even know that part. Pretty much.
Brad: 00:31:52 Every kid who has played a sport in the last 50 years has received a trophy at the end of the season. It’s expected, right? It’s a line item on the registration fee. Jersey socks trophy. Yes. Yeah.
Ashley: 00:32:07 And then so then, so that’s sort of, that was awesome. But so now in you yuan, so now you guys know where we got, but now why do I hate them so much? Well, one, so many reasons, so many reasons. One is and it’s not like you know, oh well, you know, the kid just got, you know, one trophy. Like you said, every kid gets a trophy for everything, right? I mean, I was ranting on a radio station and someone called in his had gotten seven trophies, participation trophies for a karate tournament that he was in the weekend before. He got a participation trophy for every single activity he had done that day. He didn’t win any of them, but yeah, seven times that day. Right. So we’re not talking about just, you know, the one, this isn’t like a, I dunno, a kid trophy version of Rudy where, you know, I’ve been trying my whole life and I finally get winning trophy, I know every few months you’re getting trophies, every activity you’re getting trophy. And I think over time what this is actually saying in a cumulative effect is nothing is worth doing unless you win.
Ashley: 00:33:21 Don’t even come home without a trophy. So rather than ratcheting down our expectations, hey, don’t worry about it. You’re getting a trophy, which is, I think that what people think, what we’re really saying is no, you must get a trophy. Oh you’re you, you wanted to join soccer cause you wanted to have fun and run around and play with your kids. No, no that’s not good enough. You have to have a trophy. You have to have public recognition of your greatness to make that activity worth our time. So I think that’s pretty destructive because some of the best things in the world we do, we do not because of public recognition, we do them because it’s the right thing to do. Because we love it or we believe in it, not because we’re going to get, Yay. That was so great. So that’s one problem. Another problem is we already talked about the importance of improvement. If you have to be a winner, what was it? What’s the incentive of improving? The result is still the same. You get the same exact trophy, win, lose or draw. There’s no need for aspiration. There’s no, wow, this is important to me. I’m going to work really hard and win the trophy. So if anything working hard, there’s actually a disincentive.
Brad: 00:34:31 So jumping in quick. Sure. The, you’re okay with the winning team in the league getting trophies? Absolutely. Listen to that. I said yeah, and I don’t even carry MVP. The kid who was awarded hardest trying in practice, absolutely no fee for him. Sure. Trophy for the MVP. Trophy for most improved the other 14 kids clap and celebrate.
Ashley: 00:34:57 Or the Grantland rice. I’d like a Grantland rice therapy. You know, the kid who stays, you know, came early for practice and helped set up for he else that the person who shows the most character, you know, those are the ones that always go viral, right? That the guy who, who’s running a marathon and carries someone across. Now that’s real competition, that sportsmanship, oh, please, please give that person a charity. Please give that kid a trophy. And speaking of which, I actually make a point of doing this. So it’s not just some random thing. I can brag on point podcasts. I talked to Olympic coaches about this. When you win an Olympic medal, you get a kiss on the cheek, maybe two, depending on what country you’re in, you get flowers, you get a teddy bear, you get a medal that congratulate you. They sing songs. I quickly rank them. You know what they don’t do? They don’t say, now remember, it’s not if you won or lost, it’s just how you played the game. We only tell that to the loser.
Ashley: 00:36:00 A, we should actually be telling that to the Olympians. We should be reminding them that is the Olympic Park. Absolutely. And the, the, the effort and the achievement and the nobility of the sport. It’s not the outcome, but we don’t tell that to the winners. And you know, there’s a lot of Hoopla going on. So I kind of, I get that maybe it would be nice in the locker room with the coaches afterwards to say, you were so excited and you’ve got a world record, but I also want you to know how much heart you put into this and how you encourage your team members. And that means as much to me as your outcome. That would be lovely. And I think there’s some coaches are probably do that. But going back to your thought, it’s not if you win or lose it. We only tell that to the losers.
Ashley: 00:36:45 If your a kid came home with a trophy every day this week, when did you tell them? It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s how you played the game. We didn’t cause they never lost. So it never came up whenever an issue. So we’re never telling kids that what’s important isn’t the outcome. It’s the character. But if you ask, I think most people want character more than anything. Right? So, so you get this thing where everyone feels like they have to be publicly rewarded. Everyone has to be applauded. How I get there doesn’t matter. And you know the, the super dark version of this, and it’s interesting when we talk about the responses to winning and losing and the good winner is just like the good loser. Cause the good winner says, you know, it wasn’t just me, it was my team, it was my coach and the, and the bad winner says, well you know, he, he um, played me today.
Ashley: 00:37:37 She did really well today. Congratulations to her. I’m going to get her next time cause she’s inspired me to work harder. The bad loser is the bad winter. Well you know, coach is just out for me. The Ref wasn’t fair. Someone t you know, Oh and a winner will. Same thing. Well it wasn’t what any of them did. I did this, I earned it all on my own. Yeah. And that mentality actually can, you know, even Carol Dweck found this in her research with praise that if you believe you are inherently good, and I don’t mean like people are inherently good. I mean you are inherently awesome and should be celebrated good that you’re entitled to the win and if you’re entitled to the win, it doesn’t matter how you got there. Even cheating is okay because well, yeah, I broke the rules, but it’s really not a reflection on me that I broke the rules. It’s about you. You who are putting these rules in my way. Because if you understood my greatness, we would’ve realized that I already got the trophy before we,
Brad: 00:38:42 If I’d tried harder, I really would have, but I didn’t feel like it. So I cheated and
Ashley: 00:38:47 Well I didn’t need to cause the output, the outcome is still the same. I was supposed to win. I am ordained to win because of my greatness. And again, life’s not about any of that. So why are we teaching our kids that? And you mentioned about it’s the line item in the budget and you’re absolutely correct. I’ll give one more thing and then I will shut up at my, everybody gets a trophy unless you’ve asked me more. But I did an analysis myself, um, because I, you know, I, I’m not a scientist, but I do a lot of research for reporting and I went through a couple of thousand everyone I could find AYSO budgets because a lot of people put them on their website, you know, for fundraisers.
Ashley: 00:39:29 And so I read thousands of Little League budgets, Aysl budgets. I wanted to know how much money people were, were really spending the industry, the, the, they call it the Award and Recognition Industry. That’s what it’s called. It’s a $3 billion a year industry in the United States and Canada. I was like, well, yeah, but what does that word mean for a team? I mean, that’s ridiculous amount. $3 billion, right? But I looked at the budgets and a lot of teams were spending more on trophies than they were on equipment. They were spending more money on a trophies than they were on coach training or play or training. And if you looked the other, the other big expenses and with their put their money on trophies, team picture and uniforms. And to me collectively, the idea is this team values looking like a winner but not actually giving you the skills to succeed.
Ashley: 00:40:27 And I would much rather not give any kid a trophy. And buy all of those kids a soccer ball, you know, put, you know, spend an extra 50 cents, put the name of the team on it at the end of the year, everybody gets a soccer ball and you say at the banquet and you say loved having you on the team, can’t wait for you to be on the team next season. Here’s a ball to play and enjoy in the moment and think about us when you’re gone. We’ll see you in a couple months. Right. And you know, I mean, I’ve had parents tell me my kid loves the trophy. Your five year old does not love the trophy. They want something to play with. You told them that the trophy was awesome, so they believed you and it’s shiny and it’s pretty okay. But they really just want a toy.
Ashley: 00:41:09 They’re five. So just give it to them,
Brad: 00:41:13 I’m starting to see the parents clouding this picture. Oh, the trophy could be more about the parent than the kid. I mean, my kid that
Ashley: 00:41:21 I’ve heard, lots of coaches say that, but um, you know that they want, and it’s funny too because sometimes the kid say, you know, or the parents say, oh, but my kid worked so hard. I’m like, no, your kid ran around for two hours, played you worked hard because you left work early to plan a carpool. If someone deserves a trophy, maybe it’s you. Right. And I, and I’ve asked coaches do you like, and this is from Pee Wee all the way up to professional and like, do you like everybody to get a trophy and most of the coaches are as virile in their hatred. I am. And when I ask the, you know, actual coaches of youth teams, you hate it. Why do you keep doing it? Oh, well the parents would leave and go to someone else’s team. So they’re not doing it because they believe it. They’re just doing it to preserve their cultural pressure market share.
Brad: 00:42:16 Well, back to the, the article and the, the content and NurtureShock, I’m remembering that the best athlete gets a very profound message of that very early on. The most attractive female, uh, it is, starts to trade on that at a very young age. In other words, they probably don’t need that reinforcement. The best athlete doesn’t need to get the MVP trophy. He knows about the 34 touchdowns. He scored.
Ashley: 00:42:46 Well, you know, that’s interesting. And, and that was another reason why I didn’t want to immediately jump into just, I hate trophies. I don’t mean now, cause now I honestly do. I mean over the course of, you know, it’s been 10 years. Why did it take me so long? Because now it all seems pretty obvious. But the, um, the award and recognition, not the industry, but the value of it. So your true novice doesn’t want a trophy, they don’t want anything. Right.
Brad: 00:43:12 Cause they’re starting to, we’re starting to narrow down the deserving trophy field. Yeah.
Ashley: 00:43:17 Well, the true novice is, you know, the kid, whether you’re talking about a grownup at work, you know, it’s their first day on the job or you’re talking about a three or four year old who’s never swung a bat before, never been on a pitch before. They’re just trying to figure out what it is they’re supposed to do. You know, what are the rules? What did the, what do I need to do to succeed? Do I even like this? And then if you add trophies, if you add scores, if you add judging on top of it, it’s just too much pressure. Um, my favorite, one of my favorite experience experiments to sort of explain this was Roy Balmeister had college students playing a driving video game and you know, college students playing a video game, you can imagine they’re completely locked in and they’re completely successful.
Ashley: 00:43:59 And then, uh, you know, Grad student confederate and walk in and go, wow, that’s a really high score. They immediately stop and crash because they’re no longer paying attention to the video game. They’re paying attention to the fact that someone’s watching them video games. And that by, for that split in attention, someone’s watching me and I’m now performing for them as opposed to being engaged in the moment changes your performance obviously. So a true novice, you know, a little kid running around and parents are, you know, screaming, don’t go that way. Well now they’re going to start second guessing themselves and wondering what they’re coaching from the stands is about, I hate silence Saturdays by the way, just FYI. Oh yeah. Well that’s just as much artificial, not praise, right? That’s the don’t yell. Um, the overstatement of, you know, goodness and badness, right. I think, you know, screaming instructions from the sidelines is bad, but if you’re genuinely happy and excited, note an encouraging someone to just sit there and stare at you. That’s what researchers do to test anxiety is they instruct, they give people like a task and do it in front of an audience that’s instructed not to respond and it just stress level goes through the roof.
Brad: 00:45:11 It was silent Saturdays. No one’s allowed to coaching Saturdays to the other dad saying that there’s only one coach allowed. This is Silent Saturday. for you, Dude.
Ashley: 00:45:25 Saturday is like no one in the crowd as opposed to cheer. It’s awful. Oh my God, I’ve never been to one. But I have heard people who were had them and they’re told, yeah, you’re not allowed to cheer your kid. Their whole game was supposed to be cool.
Brad: 00:45:37 You can get rid of the negative stuff and allow the cheer. Absolutely. Yeah, sure. Don’t coach but cheer all you want.
Ashley: 00:45:44 Yeah, absolutely. So, um, so you’re not missed again, just let them learn. Just give them time to understand that they enjoy it. Now your true elite, your expert, they’re less interested in the actual medal because as you, as you rightly said, they know what they’ve achieved. Right. And my guess is they probably want a lot of them. I was, um, USA swimming’s nationals were in Irvine a couple of weeks ago and we had a lot, there were a lot of younger new athletes, but the previous, so four years ago that Irvine had the national, uh, US nationals and people in the pool that year were Michael Phelps, Ryan Lochte, d Colin Jones, people who have more national championships then historic. And those senior athletes who had had a million national medals were handing them out to the kids in the crowd. I mean literally like they would do the medal stand and then they would walk over and then they would just throw the medal and the kids were thrilled and you know, they got that record, they got what they needed to, but the actual medal wasn’t so important, but they thought it could inspire some, a little kid so that they were passing them out. It was really kind of amazing.
Brad: 00:46:57 Supers kids crying is not mine. I didn’t earn it. But it represents something that I can work towards. So it’s, yeah, absolutely. It’s a connection. It’s not like they’re saying what’s your name and medal to some kid.
Ashley: 00:47:12 And that medal meant something. It was a national championship medals, gold medal. So I thought that was amazing. I was near tears every time it happened and it happened all week. But so your true lead performer, their competition is themselves, right? Their personal best, what can they knew achieve and the medal itself, the physical trophy can be a reminder of that. But it’s still not a goal. The goal, you know, it’s different. Where the competition is really important and we’re in terms of the prize itself is really important is actually then that intermediate stage because there what you’re trying to do is you’re trying to test yourself to prove if you are as good as you think you are. Right. I’ve mastered the basics, I’ve mastered the rules, I think I’m ready to play. But now the only way if I really know if I’m good as I’m going to have to play against you and see if I win. So it’s that intermediate stage when trophies are important because they are that sort of test, is this worth continuing? Should I sign up for the travel soccer league? Should I continue all of this? Or maybe I should just focus on a different activity or something like that. So that’s when the medals have the most salient, that physical piece.
Brad: 00:48:27 Oh, but should they, should they be for the top finishers? Well, that what you’re saying, like the Olympics has gold, silver, and bronze. There’s not paper for seventh place. Right. And that’s what’s so special about the Olympics and everyone striving for a medal.
Ashley: 00:48:41 Well I think in there, and there’s, this is really interesting to me cause when this, this as a, before I actually started studying this and for Top Dog I always thought of competition from the perspective of the con, the competitor. And if you think about it from the perspective of the organizer of the competition, it’s a completely different thing. What is the goal of the competition? If the goal of the competition is to increase, uh, community health? So we’re going to have a 5K, well a 5K, you know, I mean I actually, I know marathoners who say they hate giving out medals for 5Ks because they think that’s a participation trophy that’s meaningless and you should really only give them to, you know, winners of marathons or at least marathons. We know as a thing. You know, I, I’ve read some five k’s and they hand me medals and I was laughing my, should I take this or not?
Ashley: 00:49:34 I don’t know. Oh wait. It’s also a, it’s a bottle opener ended and medal. So that had some news, we’ll take that. But, but the, if you think about it again from the organizer or if it’s a fundraiser, right. My goal is to get many people involved. So now I want more people to get trophies because they know that they’re not, they don’t have to be an elite performer, but they’re likely have succeed succeeding. Um, I think that the Ks, again, there you get a little bit of a trophy culture cause now you’ve got this sort of to finish well but you get hopefully expected and it’s competition, right? Because now they have like fancier medals and you also get a tee shirt and you get a package of blah, blah blah blah. Um, but I guess in some ways we cannot say you achieved because you actually only get the medal if you finished, if you quit and hopefully you’d done it if you dropped out at the race, you know, hopefully to the individual.
Brad: 00:50:23 And that person may have been working for a year to get that got their hip replaced and they rehabbed and they got a finisher medal and they’re crying at the finish and the winners giving his medal out to some kid.
Ashley: 00:50:34 So, but, but they’re not competing against each other. So and so I’m actually, I understand their objections for the professional and elite runners in terms of everybody getting a trophy, but, or a medal for a 5K. But I understand why that might be there. But again, focusing on the difference, right? So the organizer whether it’s for raising money for a charity or I just want my community to be more fit. You’re going to want more prizes because you want everyone to think I’ve got a chance of succeeding. Right. I know I’m not a young whipper snapper and I’m not much of an athlete and I find out there’s only one medal at a 5K and it’s, you know, you know, it’s a trip in a, I dunno, prize of a trip to Hong Kong. I’m like, yeah, but you know, every elite runner in California is going to be running that.
Ashley: 00:51:21 Why? I’m not going to go to that. I’m just going to be embarrassment. No, no, no. At least a third of people are getting a prize that seems to actually be the number, not for a five k, but a competent sort of competitions. 30% sounds like a pretty good ratio because that’s, it seems like it doable. Right? And but so if you want more people participating, then you want to give out more trophies. If your goal is to find out who’s the best, now you give fewer trophies and the prizes are deeper. Right? So a hundred people, we’ll get a gift card to Starbucks, the top five finishers, we’ll get cash, the top prize gets a trophy in a trip and blah, blah, blah. Now what we’re trying to do is find out who’s the best. It’s going to mean we have a smaller entrance pool, but we’ll get better performances.
Ashley: 00:52:18 Hmm. So you have to ask, why are you actually trying to have this competition and be mindful of it. But that is so different than the Oh, every kid gets a trophy because they’re not thinking about how it affects the community, how it affects their team, how it affects the player individually. And that’s another one of those things when I like, again, back to that kid who broke a vase or made a vase, we all I think understand that the appropriate punishment for a three or four or six or 16 year old is not the same. But we don’t make those same distinctions for praise. We don’t make those same decisions for rewards. The three year old, everybody gets a trophy. The six year old gets a trophy, everybody gets a trophy. in some way as those, even the 16 year old, everybody gets a trophy. So why is it that we’re not actually looking at developmentally appropriate ways to encourage and keeping kids engaged as we do in the same questions for punishment, which never had that conversation.? And I think it’s missing a really important understanding,
Brad: 00:53:27 Which you kind of heighten the stakes of the competition as the, as the kid gets older, just so they can understand what the real world’s all about and
Ashley: 00:53:37 well, I’m not, I’m, I’m again, I’m running into demoralizing kids. Oh, I know. And I, and I don’t think they will, you know, life stuff kind of thing. Suck it up. It’s not necessarily productive predict. Um, excuse me. I think that having a sort of life sucks approach doesn’t really motivate. Right. I mean, you know, the, I walk to school uphill both ways in the snow, blah, blah, blah, blah. You know, no kid has gone okay. Even if it was true,
Brad: 00:54:08 Well motivated now.
Ashley: 00:54:10 So yeah. Okay. You’re motivated as a kid and heard the stories and I was not motivated. Right. Um, but I don’t think it’s about automatic age and life’s tough. I think it is located on proficiency. So if you have a five or six year old who’s playing with eight or nine year olds and has really got it down, then they’re ready for more complicated and tougher competition. If you have a five year old was still walking around, can’t figure it out then. So I would locate it more on skillset and kids individual maturity rather than ages or you know, when is it that we say life is tough, but again, I always want to, I don’t want to focus on losing, I want to focus on improving and that’s true. Winning or losing. So that’s why, you know, I want the kid with this, the most character to get a trophy. I want the kid who’s got the most improved. He may still be the worst kid on the team, but when you talk about effort and heart and how much he’s progressing, that kid deserves a trophy because he may have worked harder and grown more than any other kid on the team. So what I want to celebrate that kid absolutely more than the MVP. I mean I’m fine with giving an MVP in award, but if you wanted me to like figure out like size, who gets the bigger ones?
Brad: 00:55:32 Yeah, yeah, yeah. At Meadow Oaks camp out in the valley. They had, I went there for years and they had a camper the day award, but there’s hundreds of kids in camp. There’s 400 kids in the camp and it was a mug and it said Meadow Oaks Camp camper of the day. And it was a great celebration at the end of the day for the kid who got camper of the day. And it could’ve been for any reason. This kid broke the record in the, uh, the, the challenge of running up the hill and, and hitting the bell the next day as a kid who fell and got up who’s five years old and got the camper the day, the next day, it’s a kid that stick around and fed the horses and cleaned up. And so it was, I thought it was really healthy because it was something to aspire to that was very hard to get. There’s one per day out of 400 kids and it was random in the sense that it wasn’t like you could push out of the way and go get camper the day.
Ashley: 00:56:25 Hmm. That’s an interesting, I mean I liked the fact that there was only one of that many kids. I’m actually again heard of kids who get trophies everyday. They go to camp every kid. Um, cause it’s a one day camp so you sign up everyday. I see him everyday. I’m like Oh my God, please make it stop. Um, and if I can’t appeal to you in terms of social and psychological wellbeing, just think of all of the landfills that are being filled with trophies but because you can’t recycle it and nobody wants your old participation trophy for their kid. But the um, but what I worry about in a scenario like that is are you truly fine? Maybe cause it’s only one kid. Maybe you can find something where they have earn it. But I know a lot of people say, oh well everyone gets a trophy for their own special skill.
Ashley: 00:57:15 But then you know, you find it was like, well he got it for best laugh and that kid got it for I don’t really like you are just digging deep here man. Desperate to find something and every kid in the room knows it. Right? Oh boy. So, um, and so when you have to manufacture artificial praise so that everybody keeps winning, I again, that’s sort of where my spidey sense, Ooh, I dunno if it’s one kid out of that many and it’s a genuine recognition, but why didn’t have to be every day? And I also don’t really like the, I mean, again, if someone’s really working really hard and going out, then I’m okay with recognizing them at the end of the season. But you know, things like, you know, you get a sticker because you were nice to your friend and the playground, well, you’re six, you got a sticker for pick putting the trash away. Well that’s just what you’re supposed to do. So bribing kids, rewarding kids for things that they just should do is another thing that I think is just really bad behavior.
Brad: 00:58:19 Well, we go through our lives the whole way. Then we go, I finished the spreadsheet on time here, Ashley. Absolutely. Here you go. Right on time. Yeah, give me some praise. And it’s like, well, isn’t your job to do that? You’re saying that? Yes. Same with with the emails, like now I love on Gmail just came the new version. You have those buttons at the bottom it says, great, thanks. You just hit it because so often like you get into this mode where the person is expecting a reply. I’m going to say goodbye to you and say thank you so much for coming and then send a followup email. You’ll say, thanks for having me. It was great except for the first 15 minutes and we got off track on sports. I had to turn the recording off and then, but you know, it’s like my phone now. We have a button to push. So it’s like, great, thanks. You’re fantastic. Thanks. I’ll put a program in my own 30 buttons on demand. I mean it, it concerns me because there is that level of insincerity. It’s just floating around. I mean, and it’s, it’s just a routine. We don’t even think about [inaudible].
Ashley: 00:59:16 I know a company where the photo, they had a website, uh, photos of VP and above and the receptionists and assistants got mad that their pictures weren’t on the website with the senior officers and like, well, we should be recognized. We work hard. We’ll yapping. You’ve been here a week, Huh? Yeah, no, I know. I always get praise. What do you mean? And there are tears if they’re not, so they added everyone’s pictures. Oh, they did handle it. I guess it would help if, you know, they were smiling and it’s the first person you see when you go there. Oh, I recognize you. Yeah. Then the right spot. Waste your time demanding your pictures on the website. That’s funny. Yeah.
Brad: 01:00:03 The other thing that that stuck with me, uh, that I, that I changed on the spot in 2007 is this concept where you say to the kid, I’m proud of you. And the idea that once you say that it kind of takes the ownership or it parcels out the ownership of something that they did, that they should be proud of themselves, that they accomplished. And now they’re becoming a show pony for the parent. I don’t know if I put this together with, um, some of the stuff you wrote and other things, but I thought about it and I hear it so often that I’m so proud of my kid. He, he got into UCLA and he’s studying there now. It’s like, wait a second, I didn’t help him study, nor did I have anything to do with it except for write some checks. So he should be proud of himself. He worked really hard. But why should I say it in that and that terminology that I’m proud of you, like you’re now making the family name proud or some such bullshit like that, which I think can have a negative repercussion in the event that, uh, let’s say he, he didn’t get into UCLA, which she didn’t at first. I was still proud of them for applying and trying, you know, I felt like he still should be proud of himself for putting that APP in. Going all out. Too bad he didn’t get accepted. But if we can kind of transcend this, it seems like it’s attached to results. When you say I’m proud of you for this, I’m proud of you for that.
Ashley: 01:01:26 Well I think, I think it’s really interesting and some of you mentioned, I think came from other people, so I don’t want to take credit for their work and some of that. I can see where it came from. You know, there’s overlaps in what we wrote about
Brad: 01:01:42 They make a lot of shit too. So there’s three elements here. There’s your stuff, other people’s work and then Brad making shit up.
Ashley: 01:01:48 Well, I mean I can see it’s considering the connections are, I think that one thing that’s important to understand about whether it’s praise or affection, a lot of times when I first you asked about was there pushback? Oh, was there pushback? And I heard people say things like, and I’d say, don’t praise your kids for being smart. They’d say, I’ll tell my kids how much I love them any darn time. I said, I did not say anything about expressions of love or affection or warm. I absolutely think you should tell your kids love them all the time and I’ve never said anything to the contrary. What I have said, if we relate it back to praise is you got such a good grade. I love you so much.
Ashley: 01:02:33 The connection between the two indicates that your love is conditional because you’ve got a good grade and I love you tomorrow. You bombed the quiz today, kid, right? That I have a problem with. You’ve got to separate those. You’ve got to separate praise and encouragement. Praise is recognition for something that actually happened. Encouragement is you can do it and that’s another thing. We commonly blend the praise and encouragement. Oh my gosh, you did so well and you’re going to do even better next time. Now let me translate that for you. What you did today was sub par and the only reason I’m even acknowledging it is because you will do better next time. So my praise was conditional on the fact that I expect more. That’s not genuine praise. And that’s not genuine encouragement either. So if you’re genuinely happy with what someone did, you know, it could be a kid going down, you know, a four or five year old going down a slide.
Ashley: 01:03:37 If I went down a slide at seven, you should have praised me cause I was afraid. And that took courage on my part. They were another kid who wasn’t afraid of slides and it was going on roller coasters at seven and he slid down. Don’t praise him. He didn’t, there was no nothing new achievement. He just did something he liked to do, right? So we got to recognize where the kid is and where the grownup is and and that’s what the appropriate thing is. But so we don’t want to blend praise and affection and make that affection conditional based on success. That’s where perfectionism, we can do a whole thing about perfection and if you want, but um, and we don’t want to make praise and encouragement the same thing because again, then your praises insincere and once your praises insincere. I don’t need to keep listening to you.
Ashley: 01:04:24 Right? Oh, you’re just my mom or you’re just my dad. You just send that cause you have to say that. And what’s the response? Yeah, that’s actually true. So, so that I think is is related to what you’re saying about pride. I think pride is an interesting form of, I don’t even know if it’s praise or an emotion. I mean there’s definitely an emotional element to it. I think on some genuinely happy for someone and happy for their success. And sometimes I label that as pride. It’s not that I expect reflected glory, right? I, it’s not that I expect you to think better of me because my friend succeeded and, and I think that’s where the that’s where the problem is, is if I’m proud of you, but that means other people are going to look at well upon me because of your success. And that I think is, you know, when you were saying in terms of your, your kid no, on the other hand, you didn’t do stuff right. You didn’t just write some checks for your kid, then you’re being humble. But you know, you helped them study. You gave them a supportive environment where they could study, even if you weren’t actually sitting at the table helping them study, you, encourage them to work, to work on their dream. And I don’t think those things are unimportant. Super important though.
Brad: 01:05:46 Well, I’m proud of myself for being a good parent and I think my son should be proud of himself for a achieving his goal of getting into college. But that’s no separate, separate and distinct things. Because the reason this is, this has taken me 10 years to absorb all this messaging from parents and you see this direct connection where they are living through their kids as this helicopter parent role. And Oh my gosh, this, especially in the sporting example, but even in the career where the kid’s freaking 30 years old and they’re still bragging about, uh, their, their promotion at the thing and I’m taking almost too much credit for it or something’s a little twisty there where it’s not, it’s not pure and just celebratory.
Ashley: 01:06:30 Yeah. Well, it’s interesting just in the past couple of weeks and your ear hitting me where I live, cause I’ve been feeling very proud of a couple of my friends achievement. And in both cases, two of them specifically, I told them, I have no right to feel this, but I feel so proud of you. And I’m, I, and I’m sure that sounds ridiculously presumptuous, but I just want you to know that I’m so happy for you and I’m so, and I did, I felt proud even though I had literally nothing to do with their success. You’re proud to know them. I was proud to see them achieve their dream. Yeah. And, and, but again, it’s still weird that it’s fried per se. Um, but it does feel more like, it does feel like pride, not just pure happy. There’s something in it. Um, so I apologize if it seems present your waist and tie, but it just means I’m really happy for you.
Ashley: 01:07:18 The, um, the helicoptering thing. Um, I actually, as much as I’m against it, I, I try and understand it because there was actually recently a really great article on the New York Times about parenting out of fear. And I think that’s absolutely true. And if anyone hasn’t read it, go read it. It’s pretty great. Um, and I’m not going to stay to her thesis beyond, you probably can tell it’s parenting out of fear, but I’ll add my own take, which is where I think some of the fear comes from. There was an study in that was published a few years ago and the National Bureau of Economic Research called the Rug Rat Race, which I love. So,
Brad: 01:08:01 oh, what a great time for the preschools and stuff. Yeah, yeah, I remember that. And when they did,
Ashley: 01:08:06 they looked at, so there was, you know, the, the famous baby boom boomers is an actual, was an actual thing, right? We called boomers, but they were really, it was a post World War II baby boom. There were more babies. So the baby boomers as they grew up had kids, which caused a boom. Let, so it wasn’t as big as the baby boom cause it was spread over time, but there was an increase in children and that’s when you suddenly started hearing there’s no room for my three year old at preschool. I had to apply before I was pregnant and I’m on the waiting list. Still haven’t had the baby, but I’m on the waiting list. And if the preschools are over subscribed and the schools are oversubscribed, then we’ll obviously the colleges are going to be oversubscribed cause I’m not going to let you know these, it’s not like we’re calling the herd the same number of kids are going to be going through all the way.
Ashley: 01:09:07 And um, so basically if my kid doesn’t get into the right preschool at three, there’s no shot at them getting into Harvard. And that became sort of the, the kind of catastrophic version of it. But it could have been, there’s no chance of my kid getting in their dream school, whatever this goal is. Right. And when that happened, the NBR researchers concluded that, especially among affluent moms specifically increased their child rearing by eight hours per week. So they took it out of personal care and they took it out of sleep. That took it up time hanging out with friends or going to a movie or whatever. Most of it I think with sleep, but if you think about eight hours, it’s a full work day was now devoted to child rearing like
Brad: 01:09:53 Flashcards and additional enrichment.
Ashley: 01:09:56 Absolutely. Or get the kid to the soccer game or get that on the right soccer league and that then so they were actually putting in more hours so that their kid would be, let’s see, only word I can think about it more competitive in terms of the preschool selection than that grade school selection. And they ultimately the college selection. And while that was happening, then you started seeing resume building for children and parents and I think that’s still happening and you still, so now you see that, you know, my child doesn’t speak Mandarin fluently at age of four, I am a terrible parent. I have failed them. So we’re jamming kids into as many organized sports, as many competitive activities, whatever they are. And the kid has to be the world’s best buy three and maintain that forever. None of, and A the boom was over. It’s been over a decade and get letters in the mail, come to our college please. Yeah. Actually, you know, UCLA, you know of kids who accept or get accepted, a lot of them turned it down cause they also got accepted to UC Berkeley or Harvard or they just decided not to go to college for a year.
Ashley: 01:11:08 So, um, so yeah, most, you know, and there’s still thousands of colleges that take everyone who applies. So, but it’s really hard. Nature abhors a vacuum. It’s really hard to tell in parent, calm down, don’t let your kid, your kid doesn’t have to do an event every day. It’s really hard to tell a coach, don’t give your kids trophies because of the parents say, well what are we do with the trophy shelves? The award banquet, isn’t it an awards banquet and you have awards, right? It’s really hard to stop doing something without something in, in as a substitute. So I think that those helicopter parents are really worried, genuinely, that their kid has to succeed in everything because they’re just don’t seem to be any mulligans in this sort of developmental pipeline. And, and from the parents’ perspective, I understand that. And, and I don’t disagree really.
Speaker 5: 01:12:07 I think that ultimately your kid not every kid needs to go to Harvard and not every kid needs to go to college. They need to follow their path, whatever it is. And I, you know, they believe the’re success because there a success because there are a good parent or whatever done they have, that’s all fine. I don’t care. I don’t care. Um, but I do think people are struggling with that and that the pipeline is less forgiving than it should be. I few years ago was giving a speech to heads of private schools and they all completely had bought into Carol Dweck, don’t praise kids for intelligence. Kids need to learn how to fail and overcome adversity every, you know, it was, it was a revival meeting. Oh yeah, absolutely. Oh yeah. And private school now with your tuition. And then I said record and then I said, okay, now you guys are the heads of schools with some of the more important schools in the country.
Ashley: 01:13:03 How are you going to implement this in your schools? I said, can you as a one teacher in my high school, cause I went to a private school and I will never forget this. I remember exactly what this one teacher did. One teacher said, you know that one bad grade can screw up your whole class, right? I mean if you just mathematically a one F on a quiz, it takes seven or eight A’s to counteract it. Right now you’re not an, you’re not an F student, you’re not a C student, but the F crushed you. So he actually threw out the low grade one low grade because he didn’t think it was representative of where you are. If you gotta, if you are normally a c student and you got a d or an f, you were no longer a c student, you’re a student, whatever.
Ashley: 01:13:49 So he basically gave, he did, he gave people an institutional model. Okay. You told them at the beginning semester, don’t freak out about every single quiz. You’re allowed to have a bad day here. So I threw that out to the heads of schools and I said, that doesn’t have to be the thing. I liked it. It meant I wasn’t hysterical, every quiz, but are things like that, can you do something like that in your schools and suddenly the cheering star, cause they’re stressing about that suggestion. Yeah. Okay. Was cause it had the burger will go down or something. Well, I mean, I don’t think it encouraged them. And I was like, am I gonna? Maybe you, I’m like, you’re the heads of schools. I’m not you. I’m sure you guys can come up with more creative things than that. That’s just the one I know about. Yeah. But how institutionally are we actually allowing kids to fail? We’re now telling them they can, but experientially, when can they, without it being devastating.
Brad: 01:14:46 If you get a B, you’re not getting into UCLA or Berkeley or the selective schools and literally in high school in four years, right? Yeah. Yeah. You’re not allowed to not be perfect. Yeah. And one, one teacher at my kids’ high school, uh, you had the option of coming back and improving your test scores to get an A. So if you really want to get an a, you could go back three times and keep retaking the test are working through the problems that you missed. And I was like, wow, that was, it was a mind-blowing idea. It’s not, it’s not used often. But why not? Because, but then I mastered the work. It took me four extra sessions in the afternoon to come back and work through those problems cause I missed six problems on the test and now I got four of them right on my second take. And then I got the last two. So I got 100% and when was this? This was a Placer High. I can’t ever remember which, I think it was
Ashley: 01:15:36 but isn’t it amazing that you remember exactly how many and how you got to do it? So these opportunities where a teacher or a coach or somebody comes up with a way for you actually to work through that failure and improve lasted with both of us permanently for our lives. And I think the sad thing is we remembered them because they were the exceptions. Yeah. And they were innovative. But what if every one of your teachers had a program like that?
Brad: 01:16:05 Then I guess you get more straight a students applying to the schools and we’d have the same problem. How do we select out? Yeah,
Ashley: 01:16:13 well, I mean that’s a different topic for a different podcast, but I think that, um, so I do try and be understanding the helicopter parents, but I, I really, I really do. Yeah. Um, but I want them to understand how much it, it potentially can be hurting their kids and we now, and there’s no actual studies looking longitudinally at parents who were more intrusive, more and more actively supervising and monitoring and fixing mistakes and that their kids really are struggling in college years later because they are now expecting either that praise or that constant monitoring or fixing their mistakes for them. So, um, I understand it’s hard. Um, and I have a sympathetic, but it doesn’t mean you can’t, you guys just got to do better. We’re going to do it better.
Brad: 01:16:59 Ashley, I think that’s a nice place to, um, to, to pick up a whole new show on helicopter parenting. I appreciate your empathy so much instead of, instead of going out on the attack because um, you know, I’m trying not to be one myself. I’m seeing all these cultural influences where, gee, if I have a hands off approach, um, my kid’s going to get left behind and these things kick in when you, when you, you want to buy in like the headmasters of the schools. So it’s, it’s a tough battle, but a nice sensitive, you dispensed your, your feedback with loving kindness, which is also part of your part of your work. You can say anything you want to your kid, but make sure it’s with loving kindness grade stuff.
Ashley: 01:17:37 Yeah. Well I mean I think that we all want our kids to do better. And the real problem is when we forget that and eh, you know, whether it becomes about, you know, I get recognition because my kids were successful, then that’s a problem if a, but if you know, if it’s no, I really want the best for my kids, I think that’s a noble thing. Doesn’t mean we can’t do it better. That’s all.
Brad: 01:18:08 Ashley. Merryman thank you so much. Go get Top Dog and NurtureShock people, especially if you’re a parent or if you’re a competitor of any kind. Dig into Top Dog. Love those insights about, I’ll just leave us with one was the um, oh you rise to the level you rise above with competition helps you rise to the next level. But only if it’s just a little bit better. Not a whole crap ton better cause then you get discouraged. Right? So the ideal situation is playing with people that are just a little better than you. Just a little love that
Ashley: 01:18:39 then you’re a goal, but it’s something that seems attainable and that person is probably feeling that way about you. So the two of you will both make each other better. Right on. Here we go. Thank you for listening.
Brad: 01:18:53 Thank you for listening to the show. We would love your feedback. It’s firstname.lastname@example.org and we would also love if you could leave a rating and a review on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. I know it’s a hassle. You have to go to desktop, iTunes, click on the tab that says ratings and reviews, and then click to rate the show anywhere from five to five stars and it really helps spread the word so more people can find the show and get over themselves because they need to. Thanks for doing it.