On Wanting Praise

Editor’s Note: I’ve been super lame lately… but these guys have stuck with me. This week we have a great dad and a great writer and a great e-friend… Jeff from Out With the Kids. This week, Jeff brings to us a story of his brother… wait… no.. not really. It’s a story of music… well… no… I guess it’s not really about music either. Just read. It’s great. Thanks for sharing Jeff! xo- Kelly

When my middle brother was about 14 or so he played an acoustic guitar in front of some folks from the neighborhood.  One guy, the father of a boyhood friend of his, laughed and ridiculed his ability on the instrument.  To my knowledge, my bro hasn’t picked up a guitar (or any instrument for that matter) since.  Could my brother have had a bit more of a backbone?  Yeah, probably.  Could my parents have handled the situation in a different way to get him back in the rock-n-roll saddle?  Likely.  Could that guy from the ‘hood not have been such an ass to a young kid putting himself on the line in public?  Absolutely.


But this post isn’t exactly about my brother.


I am deeply connected to the kid’s music scene.  Some would even say I’m the glue that binds the scene together.  Okay, no one would ever say that.  But I am involved a little bit and happily so.


The Grammy Award nominations were announced this week and, in case you weren’t hip to it, kid’s music has a category.  Used to be two, but that’s another story.  You may also not be aware that the kid’s music world is ripe with creativity, diversity and innovation right now.  Long gone are the days of choosing only between a singing purple dinosaur and 4 Australian guys in primary colored t-shirts.  We are currently living in the Golden Age of Family Music.  Yet the 2012 Grammy nominees for Best Children’s Album are not representative of the current vibrancy in the genre.


This news had me, and some of my peers, in a tizzy at the slap in the face given to the great ones creating great media for families.  But to be honest, I think it was us non-musicians on the fringe of the scene that took the surprising nominee list harder than the actual music-makers.  We felt slighted because the artists that we champion, the entire genre that we prop up for all to see and respect, were in a way disrespected on the biggest stage with all the bight lights of Hollywood shining down.  We were all ready to tell our story on a national stage, to parlay the annual Award season to convert a few more families and national music critics.  Instead, we are kind of back to square one fighting for attention and for the respect of those who continue to put down children’s music as a viable art form.


But this post isn’t exactly about music.


Being judged can suck.  And this coming from one who gets paid to do it, to essentially say: this is better than that.


We adults, for the most part, can process rejection.  Sometimes alcohol is involved.  Kids, though, they are still figuring out their place in the world, what they can and cannot do well, and are still building their self-esteem and protective wall.  Intentional, nasty blows can take a toll – just ask a child actor.  All children take being judged hard.  When a young person exposes his or her vulnerability by performing for others – be it acting, dancing, or playing acoustic guitar – it can crush them to feel negativity.  Some, like my brother, retreat for good.  This is not to say that a constant praise fest is the answer, not at all, but we must help our children develop a level of confidence from within, to not need so much the admiration of “the public”.  Doing so isn’t easy, and I don’t exactly have the guidebook for this one, because we all want to be loved some for what is it we can do, but to temper that desire for praise with a self-assuredness can go a long way to raising a mentally healthy young person and eventually a stable adult without a drinking problem.


I’m no longer a vulnerable tween, but as a passionate kid’s music fan and children’s media critic I too, rightly or wrongly, feel the sting of the hurtful, ignorant “kid’s music sucks” phrase so easily uttered by adults not familiar with the music that would so easily change their mind on the subject.  Short of every single music-loving family giving a few of the great kid’s bands a real chance in their iPods, I don’t know what will ever help me get over it.   I only know that, unlike my brother and his acoustic guitar 35 years ago, I will not quit trying to convince you of its merits.

Find out more about great kid’s music on Jeff’s site http://www.owtk.com