You would think that praising your child is an absolute good – and it’s certainly better than the alternative of never praising, or frequently criticizing your child. But if you praise your children the wrong way, you may find yourself with a spoiled, entitled teenager in ten years who refuses to put effort into anything. We all know that type of kid!
Praising Your Child The Wrong Way
What does the wrong kind of praise look like? You might find it surprising but saying things like, “Great job!” and “You’re so smart!” can be detrimental.
Yes, children need lots of encouragement from their parents and praising your child will help them to grow into healthly, happy, confident human beings. But they also need to know why their job was “great.” How else will they know which parts they are doing well, and which they need to practice? And, they need to know that their intelligence and abilities aren’t fixed entities, but rather attributes that can be developed through practice.
Praising Intelligence or Effort?
Stanford professor Carol Dweck came out with a theory of having a “Growth” mindset or a “Fixed” mindset. A “Fixed” mindset is when you believe that you have a certain amount of intelligence or talent that can’t be changed or improved by hard work and practice. You can see why that mindset would be problematic in a child. Parents unwittingly encourage a Fixed mindset when they praise intelligence or talent by saying, “You’re so smart,” or “You’re so talented!” It’s much more beneficial for children to have their time, effort, and thought process appreciated and rewarded.
Dweck’s study of 400 fifth graders in inner city schools revealed that praising behaviors like the amount of time spent on something, or the approach to learning it, helps children want to tackle challenging tasks – rather than avoiding the possibility of failure by choosing the easiest tasks. When you praise effort, children will naturally want to put more effort in. If you praise something the child can’t change, they have nowhere to go.
Kids thrive with constructive praise, and will do just about anything to earn it. So start praising your child, just make sure it’s the right kind.
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