Wednesday, February 21, 2007

A must read for parents: Praise your kids' effort, not their 'smartness'

Po Bronson has an excellent article titled How not to talk to your kids: The inverse power of praise in the New York magazine. It's a must read for all parents. In fact, its 'lessons' could be used in all kinds of human interactions, including teaching. Here's a key take-home message:

... “When we praise children for their intelligence,” Carol Dweck wrote in her study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” And that’s what the fifth-graders had done: They’d chosen to look smart and avoid the risk of being embarrassed.


  1. gaddeswarup said...

    From the same article:
    "Other students were praised for their effort: “You must have worked really hard.”

    Why just a single line of praise? “We wanted to see how sensitive children were,” Dweck explained. “We had a hunch that one line might be enough to see an effect.”

    Then the students were given a choice of test for the second round. One choice was a test that would be more difficult than the first, but the researchers told the kids that they’d learn a lot from attempting the puzzles. The other choice, Dweck’s team explained, was an easy test, just like the first. Of those praised for their effort, 90 percent chose the harder set of puzzles. Of those praised for their intelligence, a majority chose the easy test. The “smart” kids took the cop-out."

  2. Anonymous said...

    Very counterintuitive and hard to believe. Praise at young age contributes to self confidence (why wouldn't it?) and self confidence lets is try new things?

    Now, how do we explain the results - I would think its more of a conditioning - kids, and everyone else - like to hear praise - regardless of whether it is praise for smartness or hardwork. And since humans are rational beings, we do what we have to do to get what we like (praise in this case). A bigger question is, do we just want kids to people who try hard at everything (which is what praise of that kind leads to) or people who are confident of their intelligence?

    VEry interesting study, in any case, though I find the results and conclusions a bit suspect.

  3. Tabula Rasa said...

    i'd suggest reading up on some of carol dweck's work. she's been doing this for thirty years now, and her work is *very* rigorous.