Are you raising a 'marshmallow kid'?

"Look Mum, I got a certificate!" cried my son in his first week of school. I, the proud, first-time school Mum, did what every first-time school Mum does these days and photographed it and posted it on Facebook.

So too with the certificate earned the next week, then the award in Assembly, then the pendant which now hangs proudly in my kitchen.

Thoughts of IQ testing and selective schools started running through my mind. Until the week after when he brought home yet another

certificate. The photographing started to drop off, the Facebook pics went ‘unliked’.

Then I started to notice the scene at school pickup… the little children all waving their copious amounts of certificates at their parents as they ran from their classrooms. My pride took a hit as I registered yet another example of what is termed the ‘everyone gets a ribbon culture’.

A recent report showed that Australian children’s academic achievements are going backwards. This is despite concerted government effort.

Child and adolescent psychologist Michael Carr-Gregg agrees that this culture is harming our kids. He says that the lack of competition means children don’t learn to deal with disappointment or associate effort with outcome.

"Where is the incentive to achieve and get better? When you take away the ability to win and lose, you are taking away the capacity to develop resilience and the ability to overcome, face and be strengthened by adversity."

Michael Carr-Gregg says that we are “raising a ‘marshmallow generation," but we are doing them no favours because life does not work like that."

Father of three, David, admits that his five-year-old Northbridge soccer player son isn’t headed toward Old Trafford anytime soon.


"He’s not the greatest player on the field, in fact I think he’s only kicked the ball once this whole season."

So it was to his bemusement when five year old Jensen took home ‘Player of The Week’ three times.

"They rotate it, and every kid gets a turn."

Michael Carr-Gregg says that we are setting our kids up for trouble. "A growing number of parents are raising their children in a state of helplessness and powerlessness. Their children are destined to live an anxious adulthood, lacking the emotional resources they will need to cope with inevitable setback and failure."

Research from Stanford University has shown that too much praise for our toddlers leads to less resilient children. Critics of the too soft culture were horrified when, in 2011, Canada changed their education code to no longer award first second and third award for sport instead giving every participant a ribbon.

So what tips can Michael Carr-Gregg give mums to help them beat this growing problem?

"Mums should give their kids freedom to make mistakes. Make a point of teaching them that failure is not a way of labelling who you are – it’s just a way of identifying what they don’t know and what they need to put more effort into. When kids understand that, they’re not reluctant about trying something, because if they fail, it’s not a reflection on them. That just tells them: 'This is an area we need to work on.’"

How do you feel about this ‘everyone gets a ribbon’ culture? What has it done for your kids?

This post originally appeared on North Shore Mums and has been republished with full permission.