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We're not these children's daddies though, are we? Did you run up to every adult expecting praise? Did they give it to you?

This is a group of, by and large, professionals. They are going to look at it in a critical light. If you want critical feedback, this is the forum to show it to. If you want coddling and nothing but positive reinforcement, stick with your parents, teachers and friends.




> We're not these children's daddies though, are we? Did you run up to every adult expecting praise? Did they give it to you?

Praise was actually very helpful to me growing up. If I didn't get it, I probably wouldn't have bothered with many of the things that now make my life so interesting and amazing.

> This is a group of, by and large, professionals. They are going to look at it in a critical light. If you want critical feedback, this is the forum to show it to. If you want coddling and nothing but positive reinforcement, stick with your parents, teachers and friends.

So much wrong with this. For one, this is a free online message board where anyone can post. Who cares if there are professionals here or not. Most 14 year olds do not have the same quantity of knowledge or acquired skills that people with more experience have. It's important to evaluate someone's work in an appropriate context. Not to mention the fact that many children are more sensitive to feedback and criticism than adults and negative comments can severely hurt their development / self-esteem.


Positive reinforcement and pleasant feedback are how people grow, not some type of angry neckbeard behavior. Everybody knows the professionals are superior, so we ought to kindly and gently nudge the newcomers to the same level of excellence.


First: Praise given always is meaningless.

Second: Criticism is not always 'angry'

Third: Consider dealing with the crass criticism as a life lesson.

Fourth: Mindless praise is not going to help you grow

Fifth: How you present something will often determine the type of response you get.

You are going to leave kindergarten some day, the world isn't all gold stars. You are going to have to deal with people giving a critical analysis of what you're doing. That is what will make you better, not endless back-patting.


There's a nasty illogic to this sequence, but I see it all the time.

A. "The world isn't all gold stars" (a.k.a. "it's a dog-eat-dog world out there", or "there are a lot of hardasses out there", etc.), THEREFORE

B. I'm personally not going to pull any punches for this naive/hopeful/idealistic/etc. young person.

This isn't logic; it's a weak rationalization for being an asshole, because there's a certain pleasure to being an asshole and cutting others down to size.

Is there really just a black/white choice between "crass criticism" and "mindless praise"?

Of course not. What about this: filter whatever critique you have to offer down to what's useful to a 14 year old (or whatever they are), and present it with kindness.


I've seen the following happen way too often: from a young age, kids are told they are child prodigies and maintain top status in high school. Then they enter college and meet people who are more intelligent or proficient and can't seem to accept the reality of the situation.

As an example, there was one section of organic chemistry for freshmen, and to get into that class you had to have a 5 in AP chem and pass two exams. I saw many of my classmates (Columbia) who were genuinely taken aback that they weren't the top of the freshman class -- and many of these self-styled rock stars never heard of the IChO!

It is better for long term growth if kids are humbled at an earlier age than to be shocked much later in life. And holding back criticisms now really does a disservice later in life.


Here's the line that makes me really uneasy about what you're saying:

> It is better for long term growth if kids are humbled at an earlier age

You don't humble a kid. That's not an action any person needs to take, ever. Instead, you expose them to the wonderful things in the world, and they will learn humility and be inspired and motivated at the same time.

If you "humble" them instead, they may learn humility, at the same time as they learn how shitty some adults are, and you seriously fuck with their motivation and inspiration.

I'm aware this may not be quite what you meant; maybe I'm reading too much into your wording.

But while I agree that false praise is bad ("kids are told they are prodigies"), the solution isn't to cut them down; it's to show them more of what's possible (and of course, replace the false praise with simple recognition of how their hard work is paying off, noticing improvement, etc.).

You want to build a drive for self-improvement in them; not convince them they're already at the pinnacle (as if anyone ever is...), nor convince them that they're currently worthless compared to the best (because it's not a competition) -- just notice how they're getting better at climbing, show how it's making their skills/lives/etc. better, and help them along.


You are reading too much into my wording -- kids are humbled in multiple ways, and in my specific example humbling happens when they meet other exemplary people. It's not about cutting down people to size, but rather reframing their understanding of what is possible.


Thanks; I agree totally with that. The important thing is that this can be really misleading:

> And holding back criticisms now really does a disservice later in life.

Holding back criticism isn't the problem; their limited understanding of the world is. Once you name the problem, the best solutions look quite different; there's no need to tell them their work is low-to-mediocre; they'll be saying it themselves (but with a drive to improve).

There are also still people who will be nasty to kids with the idea of "toughening them up"; this is crap as well (kids can better deal with shitty behavior if they have a solid idea of what is non shitty behavior, and if they haven't been traumatized into having intense emotional responses in conflict), but I don't have time to get into that in depth here....


There is a difference between good criticism and bad criticism though. I see nothing wrong with encouraging the former and discouraging the latter, which is what the OP was talking about.

So, when you talk about criticism in a general way, you are missing the point. No one is suggesting we coddle anyone. We should however remain professional, which is the problem some people are having.

Unless you are saying that we should encourage all criticism, even bad criticism?


Relevant to the discussion at hand: http://thisisindexed.com/2012/12/somebody-teach-this-kid-to-...

I think the age matters to give appropriate advice and direction. With the case of the 14 year old, they don't have the life experiences to be able to get certain analogies, and they have a different set of opportunities available to them. At 14, you can prep differently, you can go to college for computer science. For the 40 year old weekend hobbiest, going back to college is generally not an option, so the path they have to take to get proficient is definitely different than the options the 14 year old has.


The answer to this isn't to stop praising kids. It's to stop praising them in the wrong way. Kids praised for results turn out like you say. Kids praised for effort have far better outcomes.


There is absolutely nothing wrong with saying "Hey, that's a nice attempt. You can do better next time by looking at this, or this, and did you consider that". Suddenly you've taught someone something, and you didn't have to bend your principles all out of shape giving meaningless praise.

No-one is expecting you to give out gold stars.


at the same time this that is a great example of good criticism.


How Not to Talk to Your Kids The inverse power of praise. (2007) http://nymag.com/news/features/27840/index4.html


You know, I'd written a lengthy response to this, but there is absolutely no point. I'll say this: The type of praise we're pushing for here is of a very different type than the one in the article, and additionally, we're not raising one kid that's receiving and endless amount of "oh you're so smart!" We're saying that when a kid comes along, mentions their age and cares to show off something they've built, we should recognize their achievement, offer advice, and encourage them to move forward, not turn into a bunch of cynical assholes.

The fact that you linked that article as a way to refute such a call for decency and kindness is so damn disingenuous. Take a second and think about what you're arguing against. It's not that radical of an idea, y'know, to foster their creativity, motivate them, give them a sense of accomplishment.

Kids out there: Stay naive and optimistic and offer your help to people who want it, and never assume the worst in people. Searching for the Truth is good, but don't let it come in the way of you treating others nicely. Most of all, don't waste your time on HN.


Nothing like missing the point, and taking a comment out of context. Adults out there - read what it is you're responding to.


That's incredibly short sighted of you. We should be encouraging the next generation to develop this skills in a supportive and constructive way. They're our future employees (and/or bosses).


When did being a professional mean giving feedback from a critical slant? In my professional career I've found advice is taken best when it is: a. asked for b. fully encompassing both good and bad aspects

If one can only see the bad in something then I'm not sure how much of a professional they are. There's a difference between coddling and giving balanced feedback.


Good luck with that sentiment.

Everyone assumes that there are already too many places online for professional peers to discuss/debate subjects related to their expertise. There are very few but that hardly matters.

There is constant social pressure for outreach efforts, to be beginner friendly, to educate others. Partly because it's seen as more altruistic (a sentiment I understand but disagree with) and partly because professionals frequently have complete disdain for educators and feel they can do a good job of encouraging and educating beginners even though they have no experience or expertise in education.




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