The Secret of How to Talk to Your Kids

New York Magazine’s How Not to Talk to Your Kids is scary!  According to the author (and many studies) when we tell kids they are smart, they are more likely to care about looking smart and will only pick tasks they are sure to succeed in.  If we tell them they did really well because they worked really hard, they are more likely to keep trying hard.

“When we praise children for their intelligence,” Dweck wrote in her
study summary, “we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look
smart, don’t risk making mistakes.”

In one study teachers said that students who were taught that they could work at being smart improved their study habits and grades.  Those that had been told they did well because they were smart, didn’t improve.

Children are also dismissing compliments because they are getting too many insincere ones, "a teacher who praises a child may be unwittingly sending the message
that the student reached the limit of his innate ability, while a
teacher who criticizes a pupil conveys the message that he can improve
his performance even further
."

Another point they made is a random reward is better than a reward everytime.  I remember this from college psychology and dog training.  A treat once in a while for a good "sit" is better than a treat for each sit.  If it’s for each sit, the dog expects a reward everytime, does it just for the reward and may not do it if they don’t want a treat.  If you only treat sometimes, they’ll do it everytime because they want to make sure they get the treat when it shows up! 

My takeaways were:

  • Make sure your praise is specific.  "That catch was great" instead of "you played great."
  • Praise effort as well as just ability.