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Type of praise predicts children’s attitude to handle challenges

In an interesting study on Parenting, researchers say the way modern parents praise their kids at the slightest chance may be harming them overall.  It may be better to applaud their efforts and not them as individuals.

Parents who want to encourage their little ones to take the right attitude to overcoming challenges should praise their efforts rather than than the children themselves, a new study reveals.

The research was done in University of Chicago.

Study leader Elizabeth Gunderson, now Assistant Professor of Psychology at Temple University, but who was at the University of Chicago at the time, said: ‘Previous studies have looked at this issue among older students. ‘This study suggests that improving the quality of parents’ praise in the toddler years may help children develop the belief that people can change and that challenging tasks provide opportunities to learn.’

The critical difference is between Process vs Personal Praise.

Process praise, when parents praise the effort children make, leads children to be more persistent and perform better on challenging tasks. Personal praise, praising the individual, on the other hand, leads children to be less persistent and perform worse on such tasks.

The bottomline is that Process praise improves the attitudes towards challenging tasks and ability to handle things with persistent effort.

When parents used more process praise children reported more positive approaches to challenges five years later.

Researchers also found that boys receive significantly more praise than the girls and that impacts their behavior over a long term!

And, although boys and girls received the same amount of praise overall, boys got significantly more process praise than girls.  And five years later, boys were more likely to have positive attitudes about academic challenges than girls and to believe that intelligence could be improved, according to the study.

Dr Gunderson added: ‘These results are cause for concern because they suggest that parents may be inadvertently creating the mindset among girls that traits are fixed, leading to decreased motivation and persistence in the face of challenges and setbacks.’

This is an interesting piece of finding.


Image Credit: Chris Parfitt

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