“You’re so smart!”
This sounds like the perfect thing to tell your kids, right?
Surprisingly, it’s not.
Well, not exactly.
While it’s clearly a positive thing to say, studies on kids and praise have shown that telling children they’re “smart” encourages a fixed mindset, while praising hard work and effort cultivates a growth mindset, which is really the goal.
Stanford psychologist, Carol Dweck, author of Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, found that kids who pushed through challenges believed they could improve, whilekids who pulled back from challenges believed their abilities could not improve.
That’s because growth mindsetthrives on challenge.
For a growth mindset kid, failure isn’t evidence of unintelligence, it’s just a springboard for growth. But for a fixed mindset kid, failure feels like it should be avoided at all costs as a strategy for maintaining a sense of being “smart”.
Out of these two mindsets, which we manifest from a very early age, comes a great deal of our behavior and ultimately our capacity for happiness.
The most important thing to praise is how your child approached a challenge, not how hard they tried or how well they did.
“You’re really good at algebra.”–This can actually promote a fixed mindset.
“You worked really hard.”–This is actually more effective because it praises the effort, not the outcome.
But the best way to promote growth mindset is to even take it a step further and praise the way your child solved the algebra problem. This is called process praise.
“I’m impressed by how hard you worked to figure out that algebra problem. I know you had trouble getting started, but it was a good idea to refer to your notes and re-read the directions.”–This puts the emphasis on the steps your child took to achieve an end resultand it’s the most helpful type of praise for promoting a growth mindset.
By focusing on process, it shows that getting stuck and trying new strategies are important, too.
Speaking of getting stuck… don’t let your holiday shoppingtrip you up this year. Use this FREE Holiday Gift Planner from Maria and you’ll be DONE with your shopping before Halloween. (Ok, ok, let’s not go crazy…)
Need some ideas? Check out this gift guide to get started.
Meg Keys is an award-winning advertising and marketing writer and the author of The Waiting Line – What to Do (and Not Do) When Someone You Love is Struggling with Infertility. She is fueled by her love of food, art and fluffy pets and lives in Metro Detroit with her husband and son. Find her at megkeys.com.