Don’t tell your kids they’re smart: Part 2 of 2

Last week, I wrote the part 1 of this post. Read it here, please (it’ll open in a new window). Thank you. I will now continue with that thought and conclude the post today.

As I had written in the earlier post, kids tend to do better when you praise them for their effort than if you praise them for their intelligence. Dr. Dweck (you gotta read part 1 to know who she is) gave an interview to Highlights magazine in which she goes into more depth about why effort praising is better than throwing the “you’re the greatest and smartest” phrase around at every turn. Dr. Dweck mentions that we are basically of one of two mindsets: Fixed or Growth. You should be able to guess which one we should be striving for in our kids and ourselves as well.

People with fixed mindsets believe that their success is dependent on their innate abilities. Thus, they shy away from challenges and in the process, miss out on opportunities. Whereas people who have a growth mindset believe that they can change, learn, and develop new skills, any new skill that is needed to get the job done. They take on challenges head on and know that if they work hard at something they will be able to achieve their goal.

So, every time we praise our kids for their talents and smartness we are fostering a fixed mindset. Every time we acknowledge their effort and hard work, we are building that growth mindset! Dr. Dweck mentions that there is new research in psychology and neuroscience that proves that genius is a combination of passion and dedication and not inherent in someone.

Here are some quick suggestions from Dr. Dweck on how to cultivate a growth mindset in our kids:
1) Don’t praise your kids for getting an A in an easy test. Kids will begin to think unless it’s quick and easy it’s not smart. We all know how disastrous that thinking can be!

2) Show pleasure and enthusiasm for learning and improvement. Praise the little improvements, “wow” the noticeable diligence, even if it is small.

3) Don’t shield your kids from challenges, mistakes, and struggles. Say things like, “This is hard. How fun!” or “This is too easy. It’s no fun.”

4) Teach kids to welcome mistakes. “Oooh, here’s an interesting mistake. What should we do next?” And teach them to love effort: “That was a fantastic struggle. You really stuck to it and made great progress” or “This will take a lot of effort—boy, will it be fun.”

5) Don’t tell your kids they’re smart. Stop praising your kids’ intelligence. According to Dr. Dweck’s research, praising intelligence tends to undermine their motivation and learning. It makes them lose their confidence if they meet something that is difficult or hard for them to do. Praise the process, the perserverence, hard effort, and improvement to inspire even greater effort. This is how kids will learn to face challenges head on and stick it out with the tough things in life.

So, at the dinner table today (you do have dinner with the kids, don’t you-at the dinner table, away from the idiot box?), remember don’t tell your kids they are smart.

Read the entire interview here.

Tell us in the comments below how your own parents might have inadvertently used praise to build either your fixed mindset or growth mindset. FYI, Dr Dweck also says that it is never too late to develop a growth mindset…there’s hope for us grown-ups!