Praising your child can go a long way in encouraging desired behaviour and outcomes. But, according to Psychologist Carol Dweck it makes a huge difference how we praise.
We often praise our children because we want to motivate and encourage them to do their best in the things that they do. While there is nothing wrong with our intentions of praising and motivating our children, world-renowned Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck, PhD suggests that praising effort and process is far more effective than praising the person.
Some thoughts to consider:
1. Model and encourage a growth mindset instead of a fixed one.
The heart of Dweck’s research is about mindset – or attitude or frame of mind – and how it determines the way a person handles setbacks and challenges. In the fixed mindset, children believe that their natural abilities dictate their future. Children with a growth mindset, however, believe that intelligence can be improved through effort.
What to do: Show your child that you are taking on challenging work or projects and talk about how you are growing your brain by doing so. Talk about your child’s efforts too, that every time your child finds something hard and tries to solve it, they are making themselves smarter.
2. Praise a child’s effort, not their ability.
In groundbreaking research involving 400 fifth graders, Dweck’s team studied how children performed after being praised either for their intelligence (“You’re so smart!”) or their effort (“You really worked hard!”). Children who were praised for their effort chose the harder options while those who were praised for their intelligence chose easier options. It seems that children who were praised for being smart wanted to keep on looking smart and so they chose the easier path to keep their “status.”
What to do: Though it seems counter-intuitive for us not to praise our children’s intelligence, it is better to praise their specific effort; “I’m glad that you practiced every day, that’s why you did well in your recital” or “Those hours answering practice math questions really paid off.”
3. Teach children that the process is more important than the result.
Teaching our children that growth mindset entails teaching them that process is more important than the result. Embracing failure teaches us how to work harder and get up. We learn from our failures when we study where we went wrong and how we can improve ourselves. Teaching our children, then, to enjoy the process of arriving at a solution is something that we need to do.
What to do: Instead of being satisfied with your child’s answer, show interest in how they arrived at their conclusion.
As we begin a new school year, these are some valuable guidelines in helping us to encourage and motivate our children to achieve goals and feel proud of their achievements, large or small.
Gail Mitchell, Head of Primary