Psychology of Parenting: Why Praising Your Kids Can Hurt Them

In the next phase, when Mary was asked by the research assistant what kind of problems she would like to work on next, "problems that are pretty easy so you'll do well, problems that you're pretty good at so you can show that you're smart, or problems that you'll learn a lot from even if you don't look so smart," Mary chose problems to show that she's smart.

"Problems that I'm pretty good at -- so I can show I'm smart," Mary told the researcher. "I am smart."

Consider the difference with Jameson, who was praised for how hard he'd worked -- not for being smart.

"Well, you did really well on these problems. You got 8 -- that's a really high score! You must have worked really hard on these problems," the researcher said. Jameson agreed.

Dweck's research suggests that Jameson -- armed with praise for his hard work -- will want to challenge himself -- even though he got some problems wrong.

Following course, Jameson opted for "problems I'll learn a lot from even if I don't look so smart."

Bingo. But Dweck took the experiment one step further. Both kids were immediately given another test -- one that was much more difficult than the first and way beyond their grade.

While Mary actually performed extremely well, the researcher was discouraging, and asked her why she seemed to have more trouble with the second set of problems. A deflated Mary said that she wasn't smart enough.

"There are other people in my class that are smarter than me. ... I'm not really that smart because of that, because I'm not used to them [the problems]," she said. "I worked hard as I can, so I think I'm not smart enough. But I do think I'm really, really smart but not ready for the other problems. But I want to do them when I get home."

Jameson, who got only three answers right to Mary's six on the very difficult second test, remained undaunted, moving onto a third test and nailing it -- getting nine problems right.

But Mary seemed to crumble, getting only three right on the third test. And remember, she'd actually done twice as well as Jameson on the difficult second test. The point, Dweck said, is that praising children's intelligence makes them less resilient when they hit a bump in the road and less willing to challenge themselves.

"After they're praised for their effort, they enjoy being challenged," Dweck explained. "What we value here is the practice, the effort, the trying of many strategies, and then they can feel satisfied as long as they've been engaged in that way. But if you say we value how smart you are, how enjoyable can it be if you're not shining?"

Bronson said the sense of failure, induced by Dwek's experiment, made Mary perform worse than she could have. In turn, Jameson, who was praised for effort, learned strategies for concentrating and facing challenges.

"At the end of the day, on the medium test, he ends up doing a better job than Mary, who had actually performed at a higher level up until then," Dweck said.

Furthermore, Dweck's research showed that the brain itself is affected by the challenges it's given -- the harder the problems it wrestles with, the stronger it gets. In her latest project -- an online interactive program called Brainology -- Dweck bypasses parents and goes directly to the children, teaching them why it's important to tackle things that are hard.

Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
  • |
  • 3
  • |
  • 4
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...