According to the study, there are different types of praise, that affect kids differently. So for example, telling a child he is good motivates him to maintain that reputation by doing good things. But telling a child he is a smarty pants will ultimately encourage him to cheat so he continues to be viewed as such.
To reach their conclusions, researchers looked at 300 3- to 5-year-olds in China playing a guessing game with an instructor. Then, one randomly assigned group of children was told how smart they were. Another group was told they did well, while a third group received no praise. The teacher left the room after telling kids not to cheat and look at answers on another desk. Well guess what? The kiddos whose intelligence was praised peeked much more than the other groups.
Of course, the study's co-author Gail Heyman acknowledges, "It's common and natural to tell children how smart they are." She added, "What our study shows is that the harm can go beyond motivation and extend to the moral domain. It makes a child more willing to cheat in order to do well."
"We want to encourage children," co-author Dr. Kang Lee also said. "We want them to feel good about themselves. But these studies show we must learn to give children the right kinds of praise, such as praising specific behavior. Only in this way will praise have the intended positive outcomes."
So in an ideal world, you'd want to praise a child for studying hard, or getting a good grade to encourage that behavior to continue. But guess what? I'm still going to tell my kids how amazingly smart I think they are. And I'll praise their behavior. I'm doing it all! I just figure there are enough people out there who will make them feel bad, and I'm here to make my children feel awesome, every day. So take that, research!
What is your take?
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