Skip to content

    Health & Parenting

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    Praise Kids' Efforts, Not Their Qualities?


    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Barbara Bronson Gray

    HealthDay Reporter

    TUESDAY, Feb. 12 (HealthDay News) -- Telling your young children that they are smart may not be all that wise.

    A new study found that it's probably not helpful for parents to shower their young daughters or sons with commentary meant to boost self-esteem. Instead, the right kind of praise and encouragement may help children be more open to change and eager for the harder tasks that provide opportunities to learn.

    The research suggests that toddlers whose parents regularly said things like "You tried really hard on that," rather than "Wonderful," may have an edge as early as five years later when it comes to taking on challenges. This type of praise sent by parents early on can affect how the children size up their capabilities, researchers said.

    "Telling kids they're intelligent rather than praising the positive steps they're taking to solve a problem as they play can make them question their intelligence when they encounter something that's harder for them to do," said study author Elizabeth Gunderson, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at Temple University, in Philadelphia.

    Gunderson said parents tend to establish one of two "praise styles" early on, either focusing on what a child is doing or, instead, on his or her personal characteristics. So, while one parent might say something like "You kept trying until that puzzle piece fit in there," another might instinctively say, "You're good at that."

    Focusing on the process or activity -- in this case, finding the right puzzle piece -- communicates that effort and actions can lead to success. Focusing on the child's characteristics seems to unintentionally telegraph that his or her ability is fixed, she explained.

    Despite any differences in parents' natural style, parents can be taught to deliver more process-oriented praise, Gunderson said. "This research has definitely influenced what I do with my own 1-year-old son," she added.

    For the study, published Feb. 12 in the journalChild Development, the researchers videotaped 53 toddlers and their parents interacting at home for 90 minutes. The parents were told that they were participating in a study of child language development, to avoid having them focus on what they were specifically saying to their children.

    1 | 2 | 3

    Today on WebMD

    Girl holding up card with BMI written
    Is your child at a healthy weight?
    toddler climbing
    What happens in your child’s second year.
     
    father and son with laundry basket
    Get your kids to help around the house.
    boy frowning at brocolli
    Tips for dealing with mealtime mayhem
     
    mother and daughter talking
    Tool
    child brushing his teeth
    Slideshow
     
    Sipping hot tea
    Article
    boy drinking from cereal bowl
    Article
     
    hand holding a cell phone
    Article
    rl with friends
    fitSlideshow
     
    girl being bullied
    Article
    Child with adhd
    Slideshow