March 21, 2007

If you've ever told a child how smart he is...

... PLEASE go read this article. Even if you don't have any kids, Please Read This Article. If you ever were a child, vaguely know a child, or anticipate ever having five seconds of influence over a child... right... please go read this article. The whole thing. Slowly.

If it doesn't afford you at least two or three light-bulb moments of fairly noteworthy wattage, we give you permission to pass GO, collect your $200, and go have a glass of tea on the porch.

How Not to Talk to Your Kids; The Inverse Power of Praise
by Pro Bronson
New York Magazine

Take a few days to read it if you have to. Print it out. Get a highlighter.

Oh, man. This has been one of my hot-buttons for decades, and I am SO glad to see someone actually doing studies to refute all the ungodly self-esteem garbage that has completely infected our culture.

In a world run amok with super-inflated egomaniacs, it's high time somebody started passing out some hat pins. Hat pins backed by research, even better! Yessss.

If you wish to share this article, you will find that the link is too humongous to cut and paste. So some dear soul created a truncated link, here:

Wow, that was a good article. Think I'll go read it again. Discussion, anyone?


Cal-el of Krypton said...

I definitely agree that the self-esteem hype is wayy over-rated and must needs be toned down. But I do feel that a "healthy" level of "universal praising" is necessary within all age groups. Something I found that the article failed to address is the overall stress level of an individual when subjected to this strict system for a prolonged period of time. I feel that the continued strain of "my effort was good but my results weren't good enough to be mentioned" would be adverse health events down the road; i.e. High blood pressure, high cholesterol, depression, anxiety, decreased immunity, anemia, etc.

Psychologists/developmentalists/sociologists are great at studying behavior and the mind, but we can't forget that the strain we place on the mind (especially our children) produces ripple effects throughout every other bodily system. The mind can only take so much.

Dani said...

I think this line right here says something really interesting, "Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you."

Are we as a culture trying to substitute quick praise and self-esteem for active parenting. What I mean, is would our kids be better adjust and have a better sense of what they could do, if parents didn't jump to give them such praise at the first oppertunity. And perhaps parents wouldn't feel the need to do this, if they had more time with their children at home. Did that make any sense? Makes me want to homeschool.

When we were small I remember Daddy telling us that we were smart, but not just that. He would say, "Danielle, you are smart. Too smart to waste your brain, so lets apply a little effort here." It was just about always related to math or spelling both of which I disliked. After working on it a while, finally grasping the concept, and getting the problems right; then he would say, "Good job, see not so bad, you just have to keep at it."

I can't say that he or Mother ever did the specific effort praise thing, but they always made clear that no matter what I was doing I was to do it to the very best of my ablity and to always seek to improve.

I suppose it is engrained, because anytime some one tells me that I am smart or something like that, I just respond, "Naw, I just have a knack for book learning" and go back to studying.

Ok, so final rambly verdict, don't go overboard with praise, and teach kids not to appear smart, but to work hard.

In thanks to Queen Lynn, virtual cookies for an awesome blossom article to think about.

Leslie Noelani Laurio said...

Interesting article. I remember a quote from the Die Hard movie, Bruse Willis says that when he was little and would complain because he whatever he was doing was too hard, his mother would say, "Yes, it's hard. But you can do hard things."

Lady Godiva said...

Okay, from your post I thought you were advocating research that literally did away with praise. And honestly I truly have mixed feelings about the article. It's not accurate to tell children that "If you keep trying, you will develop enough intelligence to accomplish X task that is set before you." The metaphor of brain to muscle is limited. The fact of the matter is some people, no matter how hard they work, won't ever reach a certain level. Like personality, intelligence is a combination of both nature (genetics) and nurture (environment). Trying to claim that it may be completely changed by environment in the form of 'praise modification' is a falsehood. It's going from one ditch to the other ditch, and not making it down the middle of the road. And a little praise is good for kids from their parents. If you grow up constantly doubting whether or not your parents notice or care about how hard you're working or your accomplishments, it's very miserable. If you come home with a 100 and all you get is "What, there weren't any bonus points?" you grow up feeling that you have never worked hard enough to please your parents, and end up with a therapist discussing Daddy Dearest. Or Mommy Dearest. Whichever the case may be. What I'm trying to say is, if every last comment is directed toward an environmentally influenced process "working hard", then the child will not feel inherently valued as just a person, outside of their actions, by their parent.