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Some praise can harm kids, psychologist warns

Original post made on Feb 5, 2008

Praising a child for inherent abilities -- such as saying, "You're so smart!" -- can actually undermine the child's confidence and lead to a destructive fear of failure, Stanford University psychology professor Carol Dweck warned a tightly packed group of Palo Alto parents Monday.

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Comments (6)

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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2008 at 7:48 am

The kid who "brings home straight A's with minimal effort" in Palo Alto just isn't going to happen. I don't know any kid in the schools here who isn't stressed out, doing their best, working up to the limit of their abilities and beyond, and still feeling that they're not trying hard enough, or doing well enough.

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Posted by Parent
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 5, 2008 at 8:21 am

As a child, I really don't remember getting much praise for anything. My parents always told me how lazy, untidy, unhelpful, etc. I was. At school my teachers always told me that I could do better if I tried harder, (never quite explaining to me what that meant), that my handwriting could be better, my work more organised, etc. etc.

As a result, I feel that I now have very poor self esteem and find it against my nature to praise my kids, the same negative comments I heard myself always come to mind and I work hard to suppress them.

So, I say give praise where praise is due, don't overdo it, but every kid needs to be praised about some things in their life and at at the same time, tone down the negativity.

I survived what I got, many may not.

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Posted by a Palo Alto parent
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2008 at 9:28 am

This is an interesting study, but more to the point is, what is the effect of filtering every spontaneous or authentic communication to a child through some kind of system that's structured to program the child like a little robot? The problem with straight behaviorist studies like this is that it leaves out normal, human, day to day interactions and focuses purely on the product of certain words or behaviors. I take it with a grain of salt, a lot of common sense, and interject heart and feelings into it.

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 5, 2008 at 6:40 pm

Having known various bright people who didn't succeed as predicted, I've come to the conclusion that one of the most important thing you can do with a kid is teach him or her to persevere when things are difficult. I do know a couple of young kids who find school here easy. So how do you challenge them and make them feel they can handle a challenge? (Sports can be a good place to learn providing your kid's not a brilliant athlete.)

While I don't really believe that praise of inherent abilities is all bad, I think it is important to teach ways of solving problems and praising stuff the kid has some control over (such as effort, or thinking of ways to solve a problem.)

This kind of came up in the GATE/gifted discussion, but I think labeling a kid as a "genius" is just so loaded. It just puts such incredible expectations on the kid.

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Posted by Joanna
a resident of Adobe-Meadow
on Feb 13, 2008 at 11:23 am

Her book, "Mindset: The New Psychology of Success" was mind opening!

# Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
# Pub. Date: February 2006
# ISBN-13: 9781400062751

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Posted by OhlonePar
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Feb 13, 2008 at 11:25 am

Hi Joanna,

Anything in particular stand out in the book?

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