Recently I read a very interesting book on which talked about a study done on children where half were praised for the effort they put into something and the other half were praised on being clever and bright. Each group of children were given progressively harder problems to solve. The children who were praised for effort would give each problem a go the children who were praised for IQ were 10 times more likely to give up because they believed they were already bright and had reached the top. When presented with a tougher problem did not want to try because of fear of failure and could not bring themselves to even try to solve the problem believing that if it did not come easy to them that they wee incapable of solving it.
It is interesting because the children who were praised for IQ believed that their smartness came from an innate ability that they had. If they could not solve the problem straight of the top of their head it meant that they were no longer smart. All they had to do is encounter a few problems difficult to solve or make a few mistakes and whamo they gave up. This is called fixed-mindset praise and children who are exposed to this,
1) Believe that success is due to an innate ability that they have, and begin to believe that any mistakes they make are failures. Not because of lack of effort but lack of ability
2) Want to appear smart to the people that have told them so rather then be involved in what they are actually learning (e.g cares more about passing the test than what is actually being taught)
3) Are less likely to ask for help, less likely to want to make an effort because the fear of failure and not looking smart to others becomes the child's greatest fear.
Now I know as a parent I have to constantly be on guard to not say to dd1 Oh, you are so clever. I have to say Wow look what you did, you put a lot of effort into that. Oh, good job DD you worked really hard on that card for Daddy. There are many a times where I say your so clever, and I think oops better praise the effort next time. Sometimes as a parent you have so much going on in your day that it is easy to slip up.
What I try an remember is that by praising the effort that she makes I am giving her a "Growth Mind-Set" and if she does fail at something she is more likely to "Get back up on the horse" and try again. They do not mull over their mistakes they shrug it off and try again. They are more likely to give something harder a go because their effort is praised not their intelligence because they realise that if they give something ago and fail it is not the end of the world.
It is also not surprising that the children who are praised for effort do better as adults to. They adjust more quickly from their failures and are able to move on.
So remember the next time little Johnny or Suzy do something that surprises you praise the effort that they put in to it. You will be giving the a brain boosting gift that will last a lifetime.
Most of the above information came from the book Brain Rules for baby by John Medina. I highly recommend this book. A book that recommends a man pick up a vacuum cleaner wins to help his partner win hands down for me.