I just read an article that claims generic praise doesn’t work. Telling kids they’re smart or a natural can actually reduce their performance instead of enhancing it.
The key is to praise effort, not natural intelligence.
Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control. They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the childâ€™s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.
I am smart, the kidsâ€™ reasoning goes; I donâ€™t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatizedâ€”itâ€™s public proof that you canâ€™t cut it on your natural gifts.
This is a big shift for me, but I’m going to try it out. I also really like the idea of teaching your children that their brain is like a muscle, and the more you exercise it, the stronger it gets. Even Einstein said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” That attitude may have been a major factor of his success. If we think we’re smart, it’s easy to become discouraged at the first sign of difficulty. However, if we believe that everyone has to deal with hard problems and not everything comes easily, we will be willing to work through the hard problems until we find a solution.
Again, here’s the article. It’s worth a read.