Praising children’s efforts rather than achievement.
January 28, 2012
Carol Dweck investigated the difference between praising children for their intelligence and praising children for effort. She found that it is much better to say ‘You must have really worked hard’ than ‘You’re really smart.’ Now as I am a sucker for trying to follow psychological research, I have been trying this technique out with my son recently. He has been bringing home pictures from preschool everyday this week and I have tried not to say ‘What a beautiful picture, darling’ and instead replaced it with ‘You must have really worked hard on that picture’. I have to say I feel a little bit foolish and wonder if I should really be encouraging a 3 year old to play rather than work hard. However, the research into praising effort over achievement seems pretty convincing although it was with primary school children rather than pre-schoolers. Dweck gave two groups of children a task to do, one group was praised for their ability and the other group was praised for effort. When the children were asked to carry out another more challenging task, the children who had been praised for their ability were less keen to carry it out than the children who had been praised for effort. The children who had been praised for their ability were worried about not living up to expectations and failing at the more challenging task whereas the other children did not have these concerns. The children who had been praised for their ability were also much more likely to feel despondent after a setback than the children praised for effort. Dweck suggests that when children are praised for ability they begin to see their ability as fixed and become more worried about failure. On the other hand, children who are praised for effort believe that through their efforts they can always do better. Dweck says that you can develop a growth mindset in even very young children, for example, you can get them to believe that they can replace naughty behaviour with good behaviour. Young children who are taught that they can change find it easier to make mistakes and also learn from them. So perhaps I need to focus on praising my son’s efforts at good behaviour rather than his hard work for now. Although the other day I asked him whether he was ‘more good or more naughty’, which on reflection suggests that goodness and naughtiness are fixed. I think I just need to go a step further and ask him to try harder at being good. Wish me luck.
- Praising Innate Intelligence vs. Praising Hard Work (kylinw.wordpress.com)
- Please Don’t Call Me “Smart” (ctworkingmoms.com)
- Finding a Growth Mindset in an Overpraising Society… (shaynehoran.wordpress.com)
- Why Praise Is Important (kidzedge.com)
- Praising Children with Low Self-Esteem Can Backfire (psychologytoday.com)