Turns out that praising your kids for their intelligence can actually make them achieve less, according to this New York Magazine article.
Scholars from Reed College and Stanford reviewed over 150 praise studies. Their meta-analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and studentsâ€™ â€œshorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.â€
Dweckâ€™s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concernâ€”they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down. A raft of very alarming studies illustrate this.
In one, students are given two puzzle tests. Between the first and the second, they are offered a choice between learning a new puzzle strategy for the second test or finding out how they did compared with other students on the first test: They have only enough time to do one or the other. Students praised for intelligence choose to find out their class rank, rather than use the time to prepare.
The number one take home lesson from this article? Be specific when you compliment your children. Don’t tell them how smart they are – compliment them on how hard they worked on that last homework problem.