Creative Child

Why Overpraise Sets Our Kids Up For Failure Not Success

by Deborah Song

Research has shown that how you praise your children has powerful repercussions on their development. Columbia University researchers, Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck, found that children who were praised for their intelligence, as compared to their effort, persisted less, showed less enjoyment, and attributed their failure to a lack of ability, something they couldn’t control.

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On the other hand, children who were praised for their effort instead of the outcome, showed more interest in learning, demonstrated greater persistence and more enjoyment, and attributed their failure to lack of effort, something they could control. They worked harder, sought new challenges and ultimately performed better in subsequent achievement activities.

 

Furthermore, research has also found that students who were lavished with praise were more cautious in their responses to questions, had less confidence in their answers, and were less willing to share their ideas.

 

So when and why does praise go wrong? And what are some alternative ways to support our kids? Positive encouragement isn’t a bad thing after all. In order to figure out what works and what doesn’t, let’s first start with the purpose of praise. The sole purpose in praising our children is to reinforce positive behaviors that produce positive outcomes.

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Generic and over-inflated praise like,  “Great job,” or “You’re amazing,” fail to do this. Such empty praise provides no directional guidance and only works to debilitate. When it comes to praising our children, how we encourage matters a great deal. Here are some tips.

1. Avoid labels. Labels like genius, the next Picasso, pro-athlete, or a natural-born star don’t describe our kids so much as it fulfills some type of fantasy parents may harbor for their child. This type of labeling creates undue pressure and may even breed lazy perfectionists and discourage kids from performing on a less than perfectly.

2. Focus on praise kids have control over. Praise is much more effective when you make comments about their effort, attitude, sense of responsibility, commitment, discipline, focus, decision-making abilities, compassion, generosity and respect, than on unalterable qualities such as intelligence, physical attractiveness, or athletic or artistic gifts.

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