Sunday Morning Shout Out

Whether you are a “free range”  parent or a “helicopter” parent, chances are you are a parent that praises your child.  Most of us seem to parent from the perspective parents should be seen and heard in our children’s lives, not just passive observers, no matter what type of “hover craft” we are. The better question seems to be what type of praise are you giving your child—how and when.

`There has been much talk about the effects of praise these days on children’s achievement, performance, and self esteem. A recent report that was discussed at National Public Radio affiliate KQED’s “Mindshift” blog titled ‘Giving Good Praise to Girls‘  shared the results of a seminal study on the topic.  Dr.Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford University, found that all too often we praise the end result of things and not the process itself. Contrary to what we think we are doing, such praise can actually be detrimental to our children. There are several reasons for this effect. First off, children (with girls showing particular sensitivity) may hear that they are only good at the things that are praised and completed, not the other things, which may be works in progress or even a complete struggle to them.

Dr. Dweck then discusses how, early on, girls tend to dismiss their math abilities, feeling that they simply do not have “it,” whereas boys tend to believe early on that they just do. Quick praise can actually exacerbate this effect, as girls who might not instantly pick up on math and are waiting for the end result praise, may get deterred by the process and struggle. They may only register the praise that is associated with the good grade, not the effort of learning.

Dr. Dweck’s studies argue that such feelings can go a long way on building or deterring ability. Dweck ‘s work found that when the process is praised over the end product, children overcome and challenge the notion that this is what they are good at and this is what they are not good at doing. Rather, they learn to value the challenge and struggle.  They learn to see that all knowledge is built over time, and not just an innate thing you are born with or without. She feels parents and educators can go along way in promoting the right type of praise that supports the process and progress in learning, as opposed to quick, automatic praise for the right answer or good grade.  It delivers the wrong message, particularly to girls in the so called “STEM” areas of science, technology, engineering, and math.

The right praise promotes a “stick to it ness” with challenging academics. In her research, Dr. Dweck found that women who were successful in the STEM areas saw math and science as an area of acquired skill, not something you had at birth. Dweck’s findings should make us as parents and educators challenge stereotypical assumptions and  lead us to examine what types of messages we are giving our children both in and out of the classroom. The right message can really go a long way in taking our children far…..


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Filed under Education, Improved Learning, Parenting

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