Views expressed here are mine alone
(If you are a parent – This is really, really important for you to know)
You love your child. You want to make sure you encourage (his) her little wins, celebrate her victories large & small. And so you praise her. Its instinctive, isn’t it!
But how you praise her can make her future… or harm it!
If you have time for just 2 lines, read the next two!
The Simple Prescription:
DO NOT Praise your child for how good/smart/intelligent/capable she is.
DO Praise her for how much efforts she put in/ how hard she works/how she persisted.
Reason: Motivational Psychology at work
Your praise works like fuel for your child – they want to be more of & do more of whatever it is you’ve praised them for.
So, when you praise them for something they can control (hard work/persistence/efforts), they want to do more of that. Such praise is ‘process’ or ‘input’ or ‘means’ focused. This is constructive.
But when you praise them for being smart or intelligent or a winner, it confers on them a self-image that they want to cling to, without consciously acquiring a sense of the ‘means’ of consistently staying that way- leading to interesting results. Such praise is “outcome” or “image” focused & can do more harm than good.
Enter: Carol Dweck
A renowned professor of psychology at Stanford University, in her best known work—conducted a series of experiments on 400 fifth-graders across a dozen NY schools.
In this study, each child was called aside for some easy puzzles – a test on which all the children did quite well. After each child finished the test, the researcher conducting the study praised her with one of two randomly selected lines:
Then all the students were given a choice for their second round of puzzles: Choose a more difficult test so they learn a lot from attempting it, or choose an easy test just like the first.
Conclusions: Two Minsets that make or break
Children who consistently receive ‘outcome’ based praise start seeing the outcome as a fixed situation: you either achieve the outcome or you don’t. As a result, they are more likely to attempt to ‘manage’ the outcomes in any way possible or even completely avoid a situation where the outcome is less likely to be favorable. Dr. Dweck calls this the ‘Fixed’ mindset. Children who develop fixed mindset are likely to experience a downward academic trend while the others moved ahead.
On the other hand, children who consistently receive ‘process’ or ‘input’ based praise feel energized by the idea that they could have an direct impact on a situation by working harder or persisting longer. This makes they more likely to challenge themselves – resulting in constant learning & acquiring of improved skills, resulting in upward academic trend. Dr. Dweck calls this the ‘Growth’ mindset.
Your child deserves to learn that intelligence/smartness or winning is not something innate & fixed – the right technique learned & practiced hard will, in the long run, result in improved outcomes.
So go ahead – Praise your child to your hearts content – for every win, big or small….and even when she does not come out a winner.
Praise her for her hard work, for her persistence, for her repeated practice, for just attempting something for the first time – things she has the power to change consciously. Be specific & ‘process’ or ‘input’ focused. She’ll thank you for it someday.
P.S. Carol Dweck’s TED Talk on this subject can be found here.
Tell me what you think?