The Importance of Praise
As parents, we all know the importance of praising our kids to encourage and condition them to bring out their best. In fact, studies suggest that it takes approximately five instances of genuine praise to balance the negativity of one instance of criticism. New research has found that there is most definitely a right and wrong way to praise kids, which can have drastic impacts on their learning potential, their performance, and their motivation. In fact, it can all come down to one simple sentence that makes all the difference.
Fixed Mindset vs Growth Mindset
In a series of studies among school students, researchers wanted to temporarily induce either a “fixed mindset” or a “grown mindset” in children, and see what impact it would have on their academic performance.
A fixed mindset, by the way, is the assumption that people are either naturally good at something or not. A growth mindset however is the assumption that people who have achieved well at something did so because of the hard work and practice they put in.
So in the most famous study, 5th graders were asked to individually complete a set of puzzle-based tests that the researchers knew the children would feel engaged with and all perform well on. Each student was then taken aside and told that they achieved high marks and given praise for it. Half the group was randomly assigned to receive fixed mindset praise however whilst the other half received grown mindset praise. Before I tell you what the difference in praise was, firstly consider the implications of the results they found.
After either praise was given, each child was told that because they did really well in the first test, they had the option to take an even more challenging test if they wanted to. They were also given the option of taking some additional work so they can practice more at home to get even better. The kids in the growth mindset group were much more likely to decide to push themselves into the harder test and opt to practice more at home.
The other difference they found was that even though all the kids in both groups said that they enjoyed the original test after the praise was given, the fixed mindset kids quickly stopped liking the whole process whereas the growth mindset kids showed more enthusiasm and drive to continue throughout the follow-up tests, irrespective of how well they performed.
Then, at the end of all the testing, the researchers gave each student the original test they started with and found that the fixed mindset kids actually performed worse on average than they did the first time around.
This research was not just one study either. It has been replicated in many different environments at different ages and has shown consistent results for over 30 years. The conclusion is that a fixed mindset created self-imposed restrictions on a learner’s performance whereas a growth mindset is clearly an important key to success.
How Parents Make The Biggest Difference
Fixed mindsets are incredibly common in our society. As parents who believe in the value of private tutoring, however, we know that hard work; effort, and a motivated drive can make all the difference. What many parents fall into the trap of doing, however, is accidentally creating a fixed mindset in the way we give praise.
I had fallen into this trap myself and felt terrible at first to find out what I had been inadvertently doing. Once I started to make a few slight adjustments in the way I praised my child however, within weeks I started noticing changes in attitude, confidence, and performance.
So now that we realize how incredibly powerful this effect is, would you like to know what that one sentence difference was that the researchers used to create either fixed mindset kids or growth mindset kids? The difference was that fixed mindset praise given was “You did really well, you must be very smart!” Grown mindset praise however was “You did really well, you must have put in lots of effort!”
So the lesson learned is that next time we praise our kids for a job well done, remember to praise the effort rather than the outcome!