When Praise is a Problem

Performing arts experiences can – and should – offer youth a safe space to discover their talents, try new things, take risks and develop skills that will help them be successful in their future endeavors. At TVCT, we strive to help each young person explore their own unique talents, but we don’t believe in rewarding them with false praise.

What do I mean by “false” praise?

Telling a student they are the best. Telling a student they “should” get a role. Falsely guiding a student to believe they “deserve” something. This false praise is a real problem for a lot of reasons.

All students are talented. All students have something important to offer the creative process – and the world. But, not all students will be the lead in the play. This is very important to understand, you can be the hardest working student. You can apply yourself in all areas of the arts through private lessons, group classes, and more. These actions will make you a better performer – and a better person – but they do not (and should not) guarantee you a lead role – or any role, for that matter.

Why?

You’re not going to like this answer, but it’s the truth; Life doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the role you want (or the job you want, or the romantic interest you want, or the house you want, or — FILL IN THE BLANK — you want) isn’t right for you. Maybe it will never be right. Or, maybe, the role isn’t right for you right now.

What’s my point? I have two:

  1. It’s always okay to give praise for work well done. Praise should always be earned and reflective of the work that earned the praise. Please avoid using praise simply to “build someone up”. This type of praise is often false and always misleading.
  2. You worked harder than you thought possible. You studied for the role. You took extra classes. But you didn’t get the part. You will, and should, be disappointed – for a time. But your hard work was not wasted. If you love learning, the arts and especially performing, the work you put in for this role WILL help you earn something else – possibly something even better! Maybe a role in a play is thinking too small… take what you’ve learned and write a play. Or produce a play. Or just keep trying out for other performance programs. The loss of one thing does not equal the loss of all.