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Research Results on Praising Children!

Posted by on Mar. 19, 2009 at 8:28 PM
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At the suggestion from someone in the group, I will start a discussion on 'Praising Children' from the book 'MINDSET' by Carol Dweck, Ph.D.  Before we start, let me define two terms to help you understand the quote below. 

Ability= fixed mindset, believing your qualities are carved in stone, you have a certain amount of intelligence, a certain personality.

Effort=growth mindset, belief that your basic qualities are things you can cultivate through your efforts, everyone can grow and change in their talents through experience and effort.

The quote below is a little lengthy, but it's worth every word to read!!  Her book also focuses on every aspect of our lives; relationships, business, school, etc.  With effort, we can learn and grow!  However, for the purpose of this group, let's keep praising children the focus of this discussion.  Let's help our children understand that they can accomplish anything with hard work and effort (and don't forget prayers:)!

Angela Holzer, MA


Dweck did a study on how kids respond to different types of praise.  They gave hundreds of students questions from a nonverbal IQ test.  (Let me quote directly from the book, starting on page 71)

"They mostly did pretty well on these, and when they finished we praised them. 

We praised some of the students for their ability.  They were told: 'Wow, you got eight right.  That's a really good score.  You must be smart at this.'  (meaning= you're-so-talented). 

We praised the other students for their effort'Wow, you got eight right.  That's a really good score.  You must have worked really hard.'  They were not made to feel that they had some special gift; they were praised for doing what it takes to succeed.

Both groups were exactly equal to begin with.  But right after the praise, they began to differ.  As we feared, the ability praise pushed students right into the fixed mindset, and they showed all the signs of it, too:  When we gave them a choice, they rejected a challenging new task that they could learn from.  They didn't want to do anything that could expose their flaws and call into question their talent.  In contrast, when students were praised for effort, 90 percent of them wanted the challenging new task that they could learn from.

Then we gave students some hard new problems, which they didn't do so well on.  The ability kids now thought they were not smart after all. The effort kids simply thought the difficulty meant "Apply more effort." They didn't see it as a failure, and they didn't think it reflected on their intellect.

What about the students enjoyment of the problems?  After the success, everyone loved the problems, but after the difficult problems, the ability students said it wasn't fun anymore.  It can't be fun when your claim to fame, your special talent, is in jeopardy.  The effort-praised students still loved the problems, and many of them said that the hard problems were the most fun. 

We then looked at the students' performance.  After the experience with difficulty, the performance of the ability-praised students plummeted, even when we gave them some more of the easier problems.  Losing faith in their ability, they were doing worse than when they started.  The effort kids showed better and better performance. They had used the hard problems to sharpen their skills, so that when they returned to the easier one, they were way ahead.

Since this was a kind of IQ test, you might say that praising ability lowered the students' IQs.  And that praising their effort raised them."  -end of quote.


Based on Carol Dweck's book, we wrote a song talking about all the positive phrases and comments you could tell your child!  It should be out on our next CD coming Summer 2009.  You can watch a demo on youtube.  'Praise Song"!

by on Mar. 19, 2009 at 8:28 PM
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