We all know the importance of praise in parenting. But did you know that the kind of praise matters as well? As parents, we commonly use the term “good girl” or “good boy”. With all the parenting advice we get nowadays, we now even praise specific tasks-“you’re smart” “you’re a good dancer”. This is a great move towards more connected, positive parenting.
But, are we doing our children more harm than good?
New research tells us that telling our children they are intelligent, or talented, can actually have an adverse effect. It can make them anxious. For example, a child who has been praised by his or her parents for being intelligent will begin to feel a lot of pressure to master every task that needs intelligence. They might begin to feel a crippling fear of failure. This itself may become a big obstacle in their academic life.
Children are basically parent-pleasers (even if it doesn’t seem like it to us). They will want to repeat any scenario which gets them praise. And believing they have exceptional ability, will not leave any room for them to fail.
Now, the really interesting news from the world of research.
Researchers have found that the brain actually learns through mistakes and failure rather than success. Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University has studied people’s beliefs about intelligence for years. What she has discovered is that people have two kinds of mindsets: Fixed or Growth.
People who believe that intelligence is Fixed, are reluctant to take on challenging tasks, to keep learning or to struggle in any way.
People who correctly believe that intelligence can be increased with the right exposure and mistake-making, tend to be the ones who continuously push themselves and actually grow intellectually.
The great news is, you can teach the Growth mindset. By praising children for the task they have completed. Some examples are: “I love the way you kept trying new things until you solved the problem!” “The way you worked to understand that new concept was really awesome!”
This reinforces the value of effort and also teaches that anything can be achieved. And takes the pressure of being an almost child prodigy off your children. Make it a point to mention what they did to succeed and remind them that repeating these behaviours will take them to success each time. Try it the next time your child does well in school. The effects are long-term but just as useful.