Problems with praise

Researchers studying the effects of praising children for general abilities like their intelligence or their artistic ability have found that this type of praise encourages children to take fewer risks and not try as hard. General praise might sound like:
  • “You’re really smart.”
  • “You’re an awesome soccer player!”
  • “Your drawing ability is remarkable.”
What could possibly be wrong with general praise? Children receiving this type of praise may conclude that all they need is their natural ability and do not need to work hard. They may also become afraid of trying anything risky that might prove they aren’t as gifted as others think they are.

In Po Bronson’s article, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids”, he describes an experiment by Carol Dweck which found that students praised for their intelligence instead of their effort were far less likely to choose a more challenging puzzle. According to Bronson,
Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
Parents who expect their children to fail as part of the learning process and who also guide them in overcoming failures give their children a wonderful gift.

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