When you label a child as “clever”, you are not helping them. For smart kids can all too easily think that effort is something that only those who are less clever have to put in to achieve results.
Instead, we need to be specific with our praise and focus on how the outcome was achieved:
“I really noticed how much effort you put into selecting interesting vocabulary in your opening paragraph. Well done!”
Or we might want more explicitly to connect the effort and the result in the child’s mind by asking:
“Tell me how you organised your practice so that you managed to play that piece so beautifully.”
Praise which helps children see that success is a function of effort or practice or certain learning strategies develops a “growth mindset”. With this mindset, children believe their intelligence can increase through hard work and they value learning over performance.
Why does that matter? Young people with this mindset outperform their peers in tests and examinations, as well as develop vital capabilities like persistence. In short, they become better learners.
- Is it important to praise someone?
- Do you agree that praise for effort is more important than praise for success? What if someone put in effort, but they didn’t do a good job?
- What kind of praise do you like to receive?
Unfortunately, much of the research from SMPY (pronounced simpy) indicates that kids who show an early aptitude for subjects like science and math tend not to receive the help they need. Teachers who see their brightest students mastering material and getting straight As choose instead to devote the majority of their attention to under-achieving kids.
As a result, the kids who may have gone on to invent life-changing medical devices or sit in the United Nations can fall into less influential roles.
SMPY reveals that assuming the smartest kids can achieve their full potential without being pushed is misguided. One of the many follow-up reviews in the study’s 45-year run showed that grade-skipping can play a vital role in kids’ development.
When researchers compared a control group of gifted students who didn’t skip a grade to those who did, the grade-skippers were 60% more likely to earn patents and doctorates and more than twice as likely to get a Ph.D. in a field related to science, technology, engineering, or math (STEM).
Pushing bright minds to achieve more is important.