Praise is often considered a powerful tool to motivate and encourage children in education and child development. However, not all praise is created equal.
A study suggests that praising children for their intelligence may negatively impact their motivation and performance.
Let’s dive into more details.
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The Power and Pitfalls of Praise
The study, titled “Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance,” challenges the popular belief that praising ability always has beneficial effects on motivation.
The researchers conducted six studies and found that praise for intelligence had more negative consequences for students’ achievement motivation than praise for effort.
The Impact of Praise on Fifth Graders
The study focused on fifth graders and discovered that those praised for their intelligence cared more about performance goals relative to learning goals than children praised for effort.
This means they were more concerned with demonstrating their intelligence and receiving validation rather than focusing on learning and improving.
The Aftermath of Failure
Interestingly, how children responded to failure was also influenced by the praise they received. Children praised for their intelligence displayed the following behaviours after failure than children praised for effort:
- less task persistence,
- less task enjoyment,
- more low-ability attributions,
- worse task performance.
In other words, when faced with challenges, these children were more likely to give up, enjoy the task less, attribute their failure to lack of ability and perform worse than their peers praised for their effort.
Intelligence: A Fixed Trait or Subject to Improvement?
Another significant finding from the study was the children’s perception of intelligence. Children praised for intelligence described it as a fixed trait, something they were born with and couldn’t change.
On the other hand, students praised for hard work viewed intelligence as something that could be improved with effort.
Implications for Encouraging Achievement
The findings have far-reaching implications for determining the most optimal approaches to foster achievement.
Praising effort rather than intelligence is more likely to foster:
- a love of learning,
- confidence and self-worth,
- resilience in the face of failure,
- a belief in the ability to improve.
This has significant implications for educators, parents, and anyone involved in the socialization of children.
Moreover, the study contributes to theoretical issues, such as the potential cost of performance goals and the socialization of contingent self-worth. It raises questions about the potential harm of linking self-worth to performance and the need to encourage a growth mindset, where intelligence and abilities are seen as qualities that can be developed.
In conclusion, while praise is a valuable tool in motivating children, it’s important to consider the type of praise we give. Praising effort rather than intelligence can cultivate a growth mindset, resilience, and a love of learning, leading to better motivation and performance.
Recognize the influence of praise
Understand that praise has a significant impact on children’s motivation and performance. Choose your words carefully to empower and motivate them effectively.
Shift focus to the effort
Instead of solely praising intelligence or abilities, focus on praising the effort and hard work that children put into their tasks. This cultivates a growth mindset and encourages them to persist in the face of challenges.
Foster a love of learning
Emphasize the joy of learning and the process of improvement rather than solely focusing on achievements and outcomes. Encourage curiosity, exploration, and a sense of accomplishment in their progress.
Provide specific and meaningful feedback
Be specific in your praise by highlighting specific actions or strategies that led to success. This helps children understand what they did well and encourages them to continue using those effective approaches.
Encourage self-reflection and self-assessment
Teach children to reflect on their own progress and assess their strengths and areas for improvement. This promotes autonomy and self-motivation, as they develop a sense of ownership over their learning journey.
How the Power of Strategic Praise can empower Parents and Teachers to Motivate Children?
Practice intentional praise
Make a conscious effort to praise children for their effort, perseverance, problem-solving skills, and strategies they employed. Avoid generic and empty praise that doesn’t provide meaningful feedback.
Use descriptive language
Instead of simply saying, “Good job,” provide specific feedback that highlights the actions, behaviors, or qualities you want to encourage. For example, say, “I noticed how you tackled that challenging math problem by breaking it down step by step. Well done!”
Foster a growth mindset
Teach children that abilities can be developed through effort and practice. Encourage them to embrace challenges, view mistakes as learning opportunities, and believe in their capacity to improve.
Create a supportive learning environment
Build a safe and encouraging space where children feel comfortable taking risks, asking questions, and seeking help when needed. Celebrate their progress and accomplishments, regardless of the outcome.
Model positive self-talk and reflection
Demonstrate the importance of self-reflection by openly discussing your own challenges, growth, and strategies for improvement. Encourage children to engage in self-assessment and set achievable goals for themselves.
Remember, harnessing the power of strategic praise requires consistency and a genuine belief in the potential of every child.
By implementing these key takeaways and action items, parents and teachers can create an environment that motivates and empowers children to reach their full potential.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does praise for intelligence always have a negative impact on children’s motivation?
No, the key is to strike a balance. While excessive praise for intelligence can undermine motivation, strategic praise focusing on effort and a growth mindset can be highly beneficial.
Is it better to praise children for their effort or their achievements?
Praising effort is often more effective in promoting motivation and resilience. It encourages a growth mindset and emphasizes the importance of perseverance and hard work.
How can I provide specific feedback while praising my child?
Instead of generic praise, highlight specific actions, strategies, or qualities that contributed to their success. This helps them understand what they did well and encourages them to use these effective methods.
Should I praise my child even if they didn’t perform well in a task?
Absolutely! Acknowledging their effort and progress is essential, regardless of the outcome. Encourage them to learn from their mistakes, view failures as opportunities for growth, and appreciate the value of the learning process.
Can praising effort and intelligence coexist?
Yes, they can coexist. However, it’s essential to emphasize effort as the driving force behind intelligence and achievements. Praising effort helps children understand that intelligence is not fixed and can be developed through hard work and dedication.
How can I create a supportive learning environment at home or in the classroom?
Foster a safe and encouraging space where children feel comfortable taking risks, asking questions, and seeking help. Celebrate their progress, provide constructive feedback, and model a growth mindset through your own actions and words.