How to praise with purpose

Carol Dweck is a psychology professor at Stanford and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation. Specifically, she studies why people succeed and how to foster success, especially in kids.

This article gives a nice summary of the findings from two of Dweck’s recent studies. The two that jumped out at me for parents:

  1. Praising kids merely for their innate abilities, such as their intelligence, actually makes it less likely that they’ll grow up to enjoy learning and to excel.
  2. Praising kids instead for the strategies and processes they develop to solve problems—even when they don’t fully succeed—makes them more likely to try harder and ultimately achieve.

I don’t think Dweck is advocating that parents should use praise exclusively as a strategy to turn their kids into indomitable achievers. I can’t see how Mom or Dad just gushing unbridled praise occasionally can possibly put them on the bad parent list.

But the findings are a good reminder that a parent’s words carry more weight with their own kids. And even when praising, sometimes, we’ve got to choose those words carefully.