Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and harms their performance
Listen for the message in the following examples :
“You learned so quickly! You’re so smart!”
“Look at that drawing. Martha is the next Picasso or what?”
‘You’re so brilliant, you got an A without even studying”.
If you’re like most parents, you hear these as supportive, esteem-boosting messages. But listen more closely. See if you can hear another message. It’s the one that children hear :
If you don’t learn something quickly, you’re not smart
I shouldn’t be drawing anything hard or they’ll see I’m no Picasso
I’d better quit studying or they won’t think I’m brilliant
How do I know this? Remember chapter 3, how I was thinking about all the praise parents were lavishing on their kids in the hope of encouraging conﬁdence and achievement? You're so smart. You're so talented. You’re such a natural athlete. And I thought, wait a minute. Isn’t it the kids with the ﬁxed mindset — the vulnerable kids—who are obsessed with this? Wouldn’t harping on intelligence or talent make kids—all kids—even more obsessed with it?
That’s why we set out to study this. After seven experiments with hundreds of children, we had some of the clearest findings I’ve ever seen: Praising children’s intelligence harms their motivation and it harms their performance.
How can that be? Don’t children love to be praised?
Yes, children love praise. And they especially love to be praised for their intelligence and talent. It really does give them a boost, a special glow—but only for the moment. The minute they hit a snag, their confidence goes out the window and their motivation hits rock bottom. If success means they’re smart, then failure means they’re dumb. That’s the fixed mindset.
Yet, certainly, the wise learn many things from their enemies; for caution preserves all things. From a friend you could not learn this, but your foe immediately obliges you to learn it. For example, the states have learned from enemies, and not from friends, to build lofty walls, and to possess ships of war. And this lesson preserves children, house, and possessions.
The present theory then must be considered to be a suggested program or framework for future research and must stand ...
It’s saying no.
That’s your first hint that something’s alive. It says no. That’s how you know a baby is starting to turn into a person. They run around saying no all day, throwing their aliveness at everything to see what it’ll stick to. You can’t say no if you don’t have desires and opinions and wants of your own. You wouldn’t even want to.
No is the heart of thinking.