Babies whose efforts are praised, rather than them personally, become more motivated children, say Stanford University researchers
Psychologists analysed the kind of praise mothers give their 1- to 3-year-old children and discover that praising effort, not talent, leads to greater motivation and more positive attitudes toward dealing with challenges five years later.
“We think our babies are so smart, so amazing, so good. But please, don’t tell them that”, say Stanford researchers.
According to Stanford psychology Professor Carol S. Dweck, “It’s better to focus on effort and the action your baby is doing.
So it’s better for our children if we say something like ‘You worked hard on that’ as opposed to ‘you’re so good at that,’ ”
In a new study, Dweck, with graduate students Sarah Gripshover and Carissa Romero, found that the kind of praise parents give their babies and toddlers influences the child’s motivation later on. It also plays a role in children’s beliefs about themselves as well as their wish and happiness to take on challenges five years later.
The research, published online in the journal Child Development, is the first to analyse parent praise in a real-world setting – earlier studies have relied on experiments done in the lab.
“We’ve seen before that process praise, or praising effort, increases motivation and encourages strategies for handling failure, but no one had asked how this really works in a natural setting,” Dweck said.
In this this study, Dwek and researchers analysed video of mothers interacting with their children at 1, 2 and 3 years of age. They particularly paid attention to, and kept records of, the kind and amount of praise each mother gave to her child, paying particular attention to the proportion of the praise that was directed at the child’s effort, such as “good throw,” as opposed to praise for the child personally, such as “you’re so good at baseball.”
Five years later, when the children were 7 and 8 years old, the researchers interviewed the children, and asked questions about their mindset when facing a challenge. (For example, “How much would you like to do math problems that are very easy so you can get a lot right?”)
The study found that toddlers who had heard praise commending their efforts were more likely as older children to prefer challenges than those who heard praise directed at them personally, the study found.
Dweck says” ‘You’re great, you’re amazing’ – that is not helpful,” Dweck said. “Because later on, when they don’t get it right or don’t do it perfectly, they’ll think they aren’t so great or amazing.”
Toddlers who heard praise directed at actions also were more likely to believe later on that peoples’ abilities and behaviour could change and develop, and you weren’t stuck with the trait or ability (or lack of) that you had previously.
The amount of praise didn’t have an effect, the study found. It was more about the percentage of process praise compared to person praise.
It was also noted by the Researchers that parents praised the efforts of boys more than girls. Sure enough, the study showed that later on in life, boys were more likely to try more challenging pursuits.
Researchers said that their findings could help parents and early childhood educators guide children toward a mindset that fosters the value of working hard, confronting challenges and learning how to deal with failure, which is in itself essential if a child is to succeed.
Other authors included University of Chicago psychology professors Susan Levine and Susan Goldin-Meadow and Temple University Assistant Professor of psychology Elizabeth Gunderson.
his article was originally reported on by Brooke Donald of the Stanford news service.
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