Do you believe that their (sic) exists a problem with praise when it is constantly targeting only one narrow aspect of the ‘whole’ individual? Do you think it problematic when any individually relies heavily on a physical characteristic as opposed to an intellectual one?
I believe that all children have strengths and weaknesses. It does them no good to be taught that everything they do is perfect. Ten minutes watching the American Idol try-out episodes demonstrates the risks well. On the other hand, it is not ok to belittle a child’s attributes. We all need to understand that we are fully formed and wonderful in all our human weakness. Given any category, there is only one in seven billion of us who is the best. The rest of us are all some degree of worse. So it’s not really about some flavor of “winning” or being the best. Life is about each human recognizing “who they are and who they are not” and moving forward clear in that knowledge. Who we are may well be largely physical. Kinesthetic learners will most likely find themselves expressing themselves through their bodies, whether in the Joffrey, the NBA or something less dramatic. For some people, their beauty is their defining characteristic and they contribute with it. While it was not her only strength, there’s no doubt that Princess Di contributed from “beauty.”
Thus, for me, life is about truth. Each person’s ‘whole individual’ is enough because we all are. We each have different attributes that contribute to us and to others in different ways. Understanding what those are is something parents can help a child discover. These may be physical, they may be mental, they may be temperamental. There is wonderful diversity in what each of us can contribute. Allowing a child to explore the alternatives and helping them find their essences is a big part of parenting.