Dangerous Praise

Good reminder about how not to praise from Stephen Currie in a recent post to the PDS Math Guy Blog.

It’s all to do with the effort effect and how to talk to kids about their work. Researcher Carol Dweck’s work has shown that  praise for being smart is a great demotivator. Here are the researcher’s tips for a better way to talk to kids about their work:

Here are Dweck’s tips from Mindset:

  • Listen to what you say to your kids, with an ear toward the messages you’re sending about mind-set.
  • Instead of praising children’s intelligence or talent, focus on the processes they used.
  • Example: “That homework was so long and involved. I really admire the way you concentrated and finished it.”Example: “That picture has so many beautiful colors. Tell me about them.”Example: “You put so much thought into that essay. It really makes me think about Shakespeare in a new way.”
  • When your child messes up, give constructive criticism—feedback that helps the child understand how to fix the problem, rather than labeling or excusing the child.
  • Pay attention to the goals you set for your children; having innate talent is not a goal, but expanding skills and knowledge is. Don’t worry about praising your children for their inherent goodness, though. It’s important for children to learn they’re basically good and that their parents love them unconditionally, Dweck says. “The problem arises when parents praise children in a way that makes them feel that they’re good and love-worthy only when they behave in particular ways that please the parents.”

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