This One Little Change In How You Talk To Your Kids Can Help Them Be More Successful

I’m raising two humans and, as I’m sure you can relate, am barraged on a daily basis with all kids of parenting tips, advice and products—how to diaper, how to feed, how to make a sensory bin, blah, blah, blah.

But, I have never been more excited to learn something new—and immediately applicable—as this recent bit of advice I consumed about how to talk to my kids.

Not all praise is created equal

I’ve heard rumblings of this, but no clear information on why praise is often considered over the top or misguided.  You hear things from grandparents like, “Kids these days want to be praised for everything from eating a carrot to going down a slide. In my day we went down the slide and no one noticed.”

And, despite what grandpa might think, praise is good.  But research by Dr. Carol Dweck suggests we need to be offering the right kind of praise.

Dweck breaks that down into two categories—Praise the Intellect vs. Praise the Process. Her life’s work is studying how this shift in praise fosters either a fixed mindset or a growth mindset in our children. The difference is minor but important.

child reading photo
Photo by JennRene Owens You Are So Beautiful Photography

Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset

These examples illustrate that subtle shift to praise the process and effort rather than the child’s intellect.

Fixed Mindset: “Wow! That’s a really good score. You must be smart at this.”

Growth Mindset: “Wow! That’s a really good score. You must have tried really hard.”

Fixed Mindset: “You finished that puzzle so quickly—what a smart kid!”

Growth Mindset: “I’m sorry I wasted your time with an easy puzzle—let me find another one that will give us a bigger challenge. I know we can do it!

Dweck studied a group of kids entering the seventh grade and followed them for two years.  These kids all had relatively similar test scores when the study began. But those children identified as having a growth mindset began out performing those with a fixed mindset. And the curve of academic success became quite dramatic.

Dweck explains,

“We measured their mindsets — we saw whether they believed intelligence was fixed or could be developed. … They had entered seventh grade with just about identical achievement test scores. But by the end of the first term, their grades jumped apart and continued to diverge over the next two years. The only thing that differed were their mindsets. …They had completely different goals in school. The number one goal for kids in the fixed mindset is ‘look smart at all times and at all costs.’ So their whole lives are oriented toward avoiding tasks that might show a deficiency. But in a growth mindset, where they believe intelligence can be developed, their cardinal rule is ‘LEARN at all times and at all costs.'”

Believe you can learn anything

Dweck suggests it is never too early or too late to start. Give your child a thirst for knowledge starting now. Use praise to reward strategy, effort, focus and persistence rather than intelligence and instill a growth mindset that will help your child realize their full potential.

Dweck’s talk on the subject was recently turned into an RSA Animate Video, and it is a must watch.

[iframe id=”” mode=”normal” grow=”yes”]


Photo by flyone

Photo by Lance Shields