Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than 30 years of research has shown that an overemphasis on intellect or talent, and the implication that these traits are fixed or innate, leaves people feeling vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges, and unmotivated to learn. Teaching people to have "a growth mindset" encourages a focus on the process, rather than talent or intelligence and produces high achievers in school, work, and life.
Parents and teachers can help teach a "growth mindset" in children by praising them for their persistence or strategies, rather than the child's intellect or talent. The key is to provide the child with specific praise versus generic praise. For example, telling a child "You are a good athlete," may actually undermine their abilities in the long run, but noting to that same child that "I liked how much you practice free throws to get better" demonstrates more specific praise on their effort, rather than the child's talent.
Here are some other examples:
- "I liked the way you tried different strategies on that math problem until you finally got it."
- " You really studied for your science test. You read over the material several times, made those flash cards, and quizzed yourself. It really worked!"
- "Mistakes are so interesting. Here is a mistake. Let's see what we can learn from it."
- "You really took your time with your drawing. I liked how you added details to the house and the landscape."
Invaluable praise like this can foster motivation and confidence in children and teens by helping them to focus on their specific actions that led to their success.