The Proper Way to Praise

Zig Ziglar on

It is a generally recognized fact that some people are smarter than others. They have a higher IQs, grasp complex concepts more quickly, learn more readily, solve problems more easily, etc. Everybody can't be the smartest in the class. If parents praise their children for effort instead of bragging on them for being smart, however, children are far more likely to perform better in school.

According to psychologist Carol Dweck of Columbia University, youngsters who are told their good work reflects high intelligence "learn to measure their intelligence by their performance," Then, when they encounter setbacks ,they falter in discouragement.

Dweck says, however, "Kids who are taught that effort is the key to success keep trying after failures." She conducted studies of 400 kindergarten and fifth-grade students. In an article published in USA Today, Dweck and co-authors Claudia Mueller and Melissa Kamins created specific test scenarios. In one scenario, adults complimented some kids on their abilities and others on their effort and strategies.

Results: Children praised for intelligence were more likely to credit later failures to "low ability" and see that as unchangeable. The kids who were cheered for effort were more likely to feel they just needed to try harder. By the third test, the "effort" group outperformed those praised for being smart, though both did equally well on the first test. Ninety-two percent of the kids who were praised for being smart said they'd choose an easy task over a harder challenge; 75 percent of those praised for effort chose the harder, learning task.

Message: When a child makes an "A" on the test, it is of long-term benefit to say: "I know you've worked hard for that grade, not only on your homework but with your classroom habits, too. I'm proud of you for that."


Praise your kids for effort, not their "smarts." Results will be better, and lifetime habits will be formed, producing lifetime winners. See you at the top!


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