On Thursday and Friday members of our staff attended the Festival of Education. Carol Dweck was one of the speakers and I would like to share with you some of her thoughts on Growth Mindset with particular reference to how we praise our children……
Interviewed by The Sunday Times, Dweck has suggested that middle class parents and academic schools risk turning out a generation of children with perfect scores who later struggle to cope in the real world.
One outcome of this perfectionism, she claims, is that many children are not able to stand on their own two feet. In the States, she says, “parents are even calling up employers asking, ‘Why did my child not get a promotion? Why didn’t they get a stellar appraisal?’”
A reason why today’s offspring are less resilient, according to Dweck, is that parents are giving them excessive and unrealistic praise. According to her latest research, which is now being submitted for publication, parents who want to have successful children should praise them for showing “focus and perseverance” rather than for any innate intelligence or talent.
She said parents should also welcome children making mistakes as a chance to learn and should allow them to make their own decisions – even if they make the wrong ones.
For the last few years, Dweck’s researchers have been analysing how 40 mothers praised their children between the ages of one and three. They found that giving praise for focus and effort was linked to higher scores in maths and language when the child was nine years old. Such praise also seems to be linked to a willingness later to try harder at problem solving.
“Mothers praising focus and perseverance might say ‘good try’ or ‘I like the way you tried something new’ or ‘good effort’,” explained Dweck. “In the maths and language tests it made a significant difference. It is a hardy relationship.”
She added, however, that many parents and teachers are sending the wrong signals to the children. “They praise kids when they do easy things. Or say ‘good effort’ when there was no effort or ‘never mind’ when they see a mistake.”
Saying ‘try harder’ does not work either, according to Dweck. “Kids just see that as nagging.