Constant praising is turning children into narcissists, expert warns

Praising children at every opportunity is creating a generation of narcissists who cannot take criticism, according to a leading psychologist.

Dr Carol Craig warned teachers and parents that the constant drive to build self-esteem in schoolchildren had gone too far.

Addressing a head teachers' conference, Dr Craig said that adults had become too afraid to correct children's mistakes in case it upset them.

At least a third of today's primary school children will live to the age of 100

The wellbeing agenda promoted by schools is turning children into egotists, according to a psychologist

Dr Craig, chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing, 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.'

Parents are increasingly challenging teachers over their child's minor failures at school, such as doing badly in a spelling test or missing out on the lead role in the school play, because they claim such knockbacks are damaging to the child's confidence.

Since September 2007, all UK schools have had a statutory responsibility to promote the wellbeing of their pupils.

But Dr Craig says the wellbeing agenda has been taken too far by both teachers and parents who are wrapping children in cotton wool and turning them into narcissists.

Speaking at the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Birmingham, Dr Craig said: 'Narcissists make terrible relationship partners, parents and employees. And we are kidding ourselves if we think that we aren't going to undermine learning if we restrict criticism.'

Carole Ford, head of Kilmarnock Academy in East Ayrshire, told the conference that a maths teacher in her school had corrected a pupil who placed a zero in the wrong place, only to be told:

'Thank you, but I prefer it my way.'

Dr Craig said: '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, said the Government's focus on wellbeing helped pupils learn effectively while helping them to be confident and responsible citizens.

The conference also heard a claim that schools are being treated like identikit Tesco stores where staff are discouraged from showing initiative.

More of the school day is spent implementing Whitehall directives instead of teaching, said ASCL general secretary Dr John Dunford.

Dr Dunford said: 'In this Tesco management model of England Schools plc, heads are the branch managers, teachers the shelf fillers and bursars the account technicians - part of a "delivery chain" that is about as far from my vision of school leadership as it is possible to get - all summed up in that dreadful word "compliance".

'Compliance . . . is the lowest form of commitment, to be encouraged in those who have no job flexibility, no initiative and limited intelligence. Is this what ministers really want of their school leaders?'

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