What? Now we aren’t supposed to praise our kids for being smart? That’s right, according to Stanford University psychologist Dr. Carol S. Dweck. Dr. Dweck says that praising children by saying they’re great, amazing, or smart, is not effective for increasing motivation and productivity. Instead, we should praise their effort. This will help them develop strategies for handling failure. She differentiates “process” praise from “person” praise. In her book Mindset based on research on achievement and success, she explains how praising brains and talent actually hurts self-esteem. Brains and talent are a starting point, but dedication and hard work create a growth mindset.
Salman Khan, from Khan Academy, cites Dweck’s research in his blog The Learning Myth: Why I’ll Never Tell My Son He’s Smart.
So, instead of saying, “you’re so smart,” why not try, “I really like the way you hung in there and struggled with that difficult problem.” Khan’s son said it best while reading a book to his dad: “Dad, aren’t you glad how I struggled with that word? I think I could feel my brain growing.”