Perils of Praise
Thank you for your cover article “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” [by Po Bronson, February 19]. We have in America the perception that childhood is easy and children are perfect. It’s almost taboo to admit failure. Bronson’s article makes room for a life in which failure is just one of the essential elements.
—Randall Mardus, Manhattan
Bronson’s article made me realize my inconsistent attitudes toward my son’s and daughter’s learning patterns. My son is 11 and a great student. He is diligent and loves to be challenged. I tell him that the effort is what counts, perhaps downplaying his natural ability. My daughter is 6 and struggles with school. She gets frustrated easily and is not fond of hard work. I tell her how smart she is in an effort to boost her self-confidence. I now see that this may be a disservice to her.
—Shawn Noonan, Center Moriches, N.Y.
I was frustrated that Po Bronson did not outline the differences between praise (“You are smart”) and unconditional love (“I believe in you”). Emphasizing brains or beauty gives a message that the child needs these traits to be lovable. But love and support should be given consistently (like food and shelter). Sadly, praise is often a substitute for intimacy—and this is when praise becomes dangerous.
—Vivien D. Wolsk, Manhattan
Po Bronson’s piece was interesting and enlightening. I am a senior in high school, and I frequently ask myself, “Why is this so hard? I used to be smart.” My parents—and, in fact, all adults around me—have always praised me for my natural ability to communicate and excel in education. I recognize the lack of effort that Bronson describes. The article illuminates where these feelings of self-doubt come from.
—Cam Brennan, Denver, Colo.
I disagree with David France’s description of my attitude on the American Civil Liberties Union’s national board as “cantankerous” [“Freedom to Backstab,” February 19]. For 24 years, I never had any electoral difficulty when running for the ACLU board, until I became an open critic of Anthony Romero’s administration. As a result of my dissidence, the national board often reversed its executive committee’s positions, backing my contention that core ACLU principles were being breached. I also take exception to France’s description of the New York Civil Rights Coalition as “nominal.” As one of New York’s most visible and reputable civil-rights groups, we foster the unlearning of stereotypes, fight racial idiocy, and overcome ethnic separatism—far from “nominal.”
—Michael Meyers, Executive Director, New York Civil Rights Coalition, Manhattan
David France paints a distorted picture of what is going on at the ACLU, opting to provide a megaphone for the handful of “dissidents” who have failed to achieve their goals through the ACLU’s democratic governance channels. As an outsider with deep ties to the organization, I know that staff and board members feel admiration for Anthony Romero’s leadership, particularly his collegial style, despite a few sharp exchanges with critics who choose to fight their battles in the press. I don’t recognize the Anthony Romero, or the ACLU, that France describes.
—Gara Lamarche, Manhattan
I was disappointed by Arianne Cohen’s representation of the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals [“Intelligencer: The Doggie-Doom Disparity,” February 19]. This is the first time the city’s animal-rescue community has been united toward a no-kill goal, and although euthanasia rates are not at zero, they are the lowest since the alliance was formed in 2003. The organization is made up of over 100 city animal-rescue groups and has become a model for community efforts across America.
—Jane Hoffman, President, Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals, Manhattan
Corrections: In “Freedom to Backstab” (February 19), Michael Meyers should have been referred to as a co-founder of the New York Civil Rights Coalition; also, he was a renominee to the ACLU’s national board, not a write-in candidate, in 2005.
In “Best Bets: Wall Hangings” (“Strategist,” February 19), the title of Doug Aitken’s work should have been 99¢ Dreams.