Knowing how to praise your child sounds simple. Just tell them what they’re good at, right? But what if I told you that research shows us that certain types of praise leads to success much more than others.
But isn’t all praise the same? Not exactly!
Most parents want their child to have great self-esteem and to have a strong sense of self-worth. Parents want their kids to be confident in their abilities and to know their incredible potential in the world. We want our kids to live fearlessly in pursuing their dreams, and not be afraid to make big choices and to take smart risks in learning, relationships and life.
Did you know that your words as a parent (and specifically, how you use praise) can actively foster these traits in your child?
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FIXED MINDSET PRAISE
I’ll be honest: until I looked into the research on praise, I thought that this traditional type of praise was fantastic! I thought that praise was all about pointing out the things my kids are great at. I assumed that this would boost their confidence and their love and enjoyment of the thing I was telling them they were good at.
This is the kind of praise I used:
- You are SO SMART!
- You’re really good at drawing!
- You’re really fast at that.
- I’m so proud of you!
- You’re so popular!
Do any of these sound familiar?
I thought that by using these kinds of phrases to praise, I was building my kids up, highlighting what they’re good at and giving them confidence in their abilities.
I couldn’t have been more wrong!
It turns out that what I was doing was giving my kids fixed praise. And, by giving them fixed praise, I was developing in them a ‘fixed mindset.’
Fixed vs Growth Mindset
The terms ‘growth’ and ‘fixed’ mindset were coined by Dr. Carol Dweck. You can read more in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success.
People with a FIXED MINDSET believe that their qualities and traits (such as intelligence and talent) are fixed, set in stone, and are inherent. They don’t spend time developing these but instead spend their time documenting their traits.
A GROWTH MINDSET refers to the belief that people’s traits and abilities can grow and be developed. These people put more effort into learning, developing and improving. They see that there is room to grow. They accept mistakes as part of a learning journey, not as a failure.
When we give our kids fixed praise, we are praising the result, not the effort. Interestingly, what she found in her research was that kids who are praised in this way learn that what their parents value is the end result, not their effort or process in getting there. In turn, they learn to value the end result above everything else.
In Dr. Dweck’s study, this led to kids not wanting to take risks or try harder things: they had a fear of failure. They struggled to uphold the image of being ‘smart’ or ‘good at something’, and were afraid to risk losing the praise by showing that something was difficult. They were quicker to give up and even enjoyed the whole process of learning far less!
GROWTH MINDSET PRAISE
Instead of giving fixed praise, try praising your children for the skills they show in the process of completing a task. Praise their hard work, their persistence and their focus. This shows your child that you value these traits in them- the end result isn’t the important thing.
When you praise in this way, you are giving your child permission to have setbacks. When you have fostered a growth mindset, they will continue to show persistence, hard work and focus despite the struggles they face. Maybe even more importantly, they will continue to enjoy the activity! This resilience and love of learning is what is most important for achievement!
HOW TO TURN YOUR PRAISE AROUND
So, how do you praise your child in a way that will help them develop a growth mindset and succeed in life? Start by thinking about the skills they show that you value or skills that you would like to see them develop. These are skills for life, not just for learning.
These values might be: effort, persistence, problem-solving, critical thinking, the ability to learn and grow, the belief that failure is not permanent, and that challenges help us to grow.
Then praise these things! Instead of praising the end result, praise the process your child used to get there. By showing your child that you value these things, you will remove their fear or failure and struggle to be ‘good enough.’ Instead, they will be free to tackle challenges, take risks, and to engage with and even enjoy the process of growth and learning.
Here are some examples of this kind of praise:
- Great effort! You worked really hard.
- I like how you didn’t give up when it was hard.
- It’s great that you stuck to this until you really got it.
- You practiced a lot and your improvement shows it.
- I love how you tried lots of strategies until you solved the problem.
Use Books and Stories
Books are also a powerful tool for teaching and reinforcing a growth mindset for your child. Many of these have been written specifically to teach Growth Mindset. The characters face similar challenges to your kids, and they are filled with internal scripts that your child can use in everyday life. You can also use these scripts to remind your child about how to approach challenges in a way that will help them to learn and grow.
HOW TO PRAISE YOUR CHILD AND DEVELOP GRIT
Angela Lee Duckworth has identified grit as a key factor in children’s success. She describes grit as ‘mental toughness.’
In her research, grit was a bigger factor in achieving success than intelligence, talent, health or looks. She conducted research across different ages and careers, competitions, and training programs. She found that those who demonstrated grit had the biggest rate of success.
How to Praise Your Child so They Succeed in Life
A Growth Mindset will help your child in more than just school. How you praise your child will instill values for all of life!
Skills such as persistence, problem-solving, and the ability to take smart risks don’t just apply to life in the classroom. They are skills for all of life. Your child will need these skills for lots of areas, both inside and outside of work.
When your child forms friendships, a growth mindset will help them to see that challenges within a friendship are normal- that some parts of it might take work and effort, or they might need to use problem-solving.
A growth mindset will also give your child resiliency in the face of setbacks or rejection by others. Instead of friendships being a test as to whether or not they are popular (fixed mindset), they know that they can work at relationships, and that even if they don’t work out how they want, they provide good learning and growth opportunities. This will apply to future relationships as well, and will even help them if they become parents!
A growth mindset within future work opportunities will equip your child to take on new challenges and to learn new skills. It will help them to be more open to feedback, and not to take feedback as criticism. They will understand that even in work, growth is about challenging yourself, learning and developing- not keeping up the ‘front’ at all costs.
A growth mindset will benefit your child in almost every area of life.
A Growth Mindset is for Parents, too!
It’s never too late to develop a Growth Mindset. Think back to when you were a child. How were you praised? Do you now have a Fixed or Growth Mindset? It might be different in different areas of life.
The good news is that it’s never too late to change your mindset! Maybe you don’t have your parents giving you praise anymore, but your internal scripts are powerful. Are these fixed or growth?
If they are fixed, why not swap them around to a have a growth mindset?
You can apply a growth mindset to all areas of life. Some of the main ones to consider are work, relationships and parenting. A growth mindset in these areas can be transformational.
And that’s it!
Praising your child in a way that values the process and not the result will give them the mindset they need to take on new challenges and to learn without fear of failure. A growth mindset will allow them to develop grit and to persist in pursuing their goals even when it’s tough. They will know that failure is not permanent but a learning opportunity.
Research shows that this is what’s most important to achieving success in life. More than inherent talent, IQ, or looks, it’s your child’s growth outlook on life that will make the difference.
I hope you’ve got some new ideas for how to praise your kids.
Please comment and let me know you thoughts. Please also share this post if you enjoyed it- every share counts and is appreciated!
Thanks for reading!
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