Growing up, my parents and teachers told me that I was smart and talented frequently enough for me to believe them. While adults thought they were doing the right thing by lavishing praise on children (whether or not they deserve it) a growing amount of research shows that telling children that they are special or smart can actually be detrimental.
No, we don’t speak to our children like Tyler Durden, but nearly two years ago, my wife and I adopted a new praise policy.Ã‚Â Rather than telling our kids how intelligent or special they are, we focus on the amount of effort that they expend to achieve their goals.
This is going to be difficult for most parents and grandparents; it’s still hard for me sometimes. Most of us love to praise our children, and telling them that they’re smart, brilliant, gifted or special is a natural response. Unfortunately, when your kids start believing how special they are, the “more likely [they are] to avoid tasks at which they may fail than children who are praised instead for their hard work. And they are more apt to lie and cheat well into their university years.”
Here are some new ways to praise:
- Nice job on the spelling test; you must have studied very hard to learn those words.
- Great catch! I can tell that you’ve been practicing.
- I’m proud of the way you’ve been working in your math class.
- Congratulations on getting the lead role. Your hard work has paid off!
I encourage all of you to give this method of praising children a try. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve seen an improvement in the amount of effort that my children expend.
Agree with this appraoch? Disagree? Let us know in the comments.