Saying this to your child will cause career problems, says study
I am one of those mums who firmly believe in filling my children full of praise when they do well – and when they do their best.
However, now a couple of new studies have shown that praising children for their talents or intelligence might actually end up backfiring.
Because, apparently, despite being rooted in positive goal of promoting confidence, these types of compliments could actually make children more likely to, as adults, feel like they don't have to put effort into things – especially in work.
Yup, that's right – looks like we need to hold back on the "you're so smart!" praise, guys.
One study, published in Psychological Science, analysed the effects of calling children smart, while another, conducted by psychologist Carol Dweck, studied the effect of praise on students. What they discovered? Apparently both studies ultimately found that labelling children as "smart" may make them reluctant to put effort into subject areas they aren't naturally good at. As in, they're more likely to pursue a subject they've been praised as being good at – and avoid other areas or tasks.
In the first study, researchers analysed the effects of praise on 300 children between the ages of 3 and 5, where participants were divided into three groups where they played a game led by an adult. In one group, kids were told, "you are so smart." In another, kids were told, "you did very well this time." In the third group, the adult did not give the children any praise for playing the game.
The results? When the kids were left alone following the game and asked not to cheat, the "smart" group cheated significantly more than the other two groups. In other words, the way we compliment children can affect their actions and even prompt them to do whatever it takes to keep up the appearance of being smart.
Other similar studies have been done on the difference of praising a child on their smarts versus their efforts, with the finding being of similar nature too. One study a few years back did just that and found that kids who believed they were smart did not feel the need to put effort into the subjects they excelled at. This, the researchers believe, explains why many people (adults included) stick to activities that come easily to them, and they are hesitant to try new things that they may fail at.