Sunday, 30 August 2015

Refreshingly Insulting

When I was home in Canada this past May my brother gave me a brilliant book for Mother's Day.

An emotionally moving story about the beauty, sacrifices, and joys of motherhood you ask?  A deeply poignant narrative concerning the preciousness of the mother\ child bond?  A collection of inspiring tales illustrating the unique gift each child is and brings?

No, the book he gave me is called "I Am Better Than Your Kids" by Maddox.

The introduction begins:

"Several years ago, I was waiting in a coworker's cubicle when I noticed the drawings she had on display and I told her they sucked.  She gasped and said 'They were made by my four year old nephew!' So I elaborated, 'Well your nephew sucks at drawing.'  I decided then that kids had gotten a free pass for far too long.  So on my website, I proceeded to to grade a handful of children's art along with some pointed but fair criticism.  The response was overwhelming."

The entire book is children's drawings, graded and commented on by Maddox.  I sit down with this book and literally do laugh out loud.  I don't just quietly and insincerely "lol" inside my head, I laugh, I giggle, snort maybe.  It's no doubt very attractive.  This book is refreshing.  And offensive.  And refreshing!  After so much preciousness out there regarding the raising of modern children, that everything a child does should be affirmed, celebrated, cherished forever and ever and that children themselves should be protected, pampered, coddled and shielded from anything even remotely not sunshine and rainbows, this was just a balm to the soul.

It's hilarious, unique, and yes, most certainly, somewhat offensive if you are the sort inclined to take offense wherever you can.

But the man makes some thought provoking points.  More bits and pieces from the intro:

'The two most dangerous words in the English language are 'good job'.  It's a quick little lie that parents tell their kids to encourage them to keep trying.  Parents are afraid that if they tell their kids the truth, the will get discouraged and stop drawing.  So what?  Since when is every kid supposed to be able to draw?  Think about your own life for a moment, of all the people you know, how many of them are artists professionally?  How many of them do something even related to art?  For most people, that number is zero.

At a certain point, no amount of encouragement will make someone any better at art.  Just as no amount of encouragement alone can make someone an airline pilot, engineer or heart surgeon.  So why art?  Why is this the one discipline that parents feel necessary to push upon their kids?

All this superfluous praise is making the world a duller place.  The phrase 'good job' is the reason we don't have any Mozarts or Beethovens today."

Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting point of view and a challenging one.  I am definitely guilty of " superfluous praise" and I doubt that will change. :)  It's my nature.  I would never look at child's drawing and say it was crap, although it doesn't stop me from enjoying this hugely insulting book wholeheartedly.  I get a kick out of his candor.  

But I wouldn't want him critiquing anything of mine.

My son was late to drawing and because I do love art myself, I admit, I encouraged him to draw and I am so glad I did! This is a self portrait drawn by my son.  Obviously he has nothing to worry about.


 (If you want a good laugh, I recommend finding this book ASAP.)

10 comments:

  1. I completely agree, Colleen. As a matter of fact, both my kids suck at drawing, and I have told them in no uncertain terms that they really should not bother. I agree that we need not walk on eggshells around our children. After all, who else can tell them to their face about their shortcomings if not us. :) I can see myself enjoying this book. :D

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  2. I see many parents of young children not only raving about everything they do but also overlooking bad manners or misbehavior.I was beginning to think i was too harsh with mine but somehow superfluous praise does not come naturally to me.

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    1. :) No doubt your children thrived anyway! I am naturally an encourager (though not of rude or bad behavior!) so for me it's good to have a healthy dose of reality every once in awhile. :)

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    2. BTW your son's self portrait is really cute--I forgot to mention it.

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    3. It's a good likeness. ;)
      It reminded me of the painting called The Scream. :)

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  3. I passed along this modern classic so allow me to opine.

    I do think that persons are prodded down certain paths and have time wasted as a result of empty and meaningless praise offered them. “Good job”, I think, can be words dangerous because they distract from true abilities a child might otherwise set upon discovering.

    Having said that ... I also think that if – and only if – the person evaluating has expertise related to his or her insight should his or her honest word be valued.

    When Simon Cowell judged contestants on American Idol he had an expertise and a keen sense of natural talent and potential. His honest word saved people time and heartache. When mom or dad gets frustrated by the trombone coming from the room of son or daughter and classes that to be “noise” their “honest” reaction deserves no respect.

    Every child, Picasso said, is an artist but the challenge is to remain one as he or she grows. Pace to Maddox but we do not pursue our artistic expressions because we hope one day to make money. We do so because that pursuit brings joy and meaning and there are enough challenges already out there to human creativity that adding mom and dad to the list of critics is not, I think, as life giving as Maddox would have us believe.

    Nonetheless his book is a worthwhile buy.

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    1. It is worthwhile just for being so funny.:) I agree with you though, there is enough discouragement out there in the world...maybe a happy medium needs to be found in the home?

      The other thing is that you are absolutely right, it depends who is doing the critiquing. Someone with knowledge and expertise has a right to honestly critique another. Like Chef Gordon Ramsay in Hotel Hell, I just couldn't walk into a hotel and swear and yell at people until they changed their ways but you know, the man has years of experience behind him, he gets the job done and you can really respect him because you know he knows what he is talking about. :)

      Or the critics on Top Chef Master. Again if it were me judging, everything would taste amazing and that would help no one. Often a thoughtful and genuine critique, constructive criticism, is really useful.

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  4. This sounds like a book I would completely fall in love with! I love the art of laughing at oneself so very much. It's a trait I wish more people would have!

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    1. Me too. :) I laugh at myself all the time...:)

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