Psychologist Carol Dweck has spent years researching and explaining the "growth mindset". There are two mindsets that we adopt based on what we are told by others. Children can either have the "growth mindset" where they are praised for working hard and tackling new challenges, or the "fixed mindset" where they are complimented for "being smart" (Yeager & Dweck, 2012).
Ideally, children should develop the growth mindset. It encourages room for improvement and to ask for help from others when they are stuck on a problem. This kind of mentality allows for better problem-solving skills and greater resilience in the future.
Praising intelligence as a fixed trait over hard work tends to show less task persistence (Mueller & Dweck, 1998). Telling a child that they are smart is likely to lead them to believe that intelligence cannot be improved upon and so, it can have negative consequences on their cognitions and behaviour. It pushes them to value performance over opportunities to learn (Mueller & Dweck, 1998).
However, now parents and educators are trying to use the growth mindset after understanding its benefits. Except, these days, children are being praised for simply trying. This hinders their learning since a child cannot learn from their mistakes if they think the only struggle they need to overcome is beginning the task. In an interview with Quartz, Dweck explains that the growth mindset is being used as a “consolation play”, making it “nagging and not a growth mindset”. This is important since it devalues the lesson of learning and having to improve on other skills.
When implemented correctly, the growth mindset can be a powerful tool. It teaches resilience and emphasizes the potential to change oneself (Yeager & Dweck, 2012). Parents and educators will only be putting the children at a disadvantage by not giving them a better way to cope with failure and mistakes.
Anderson, J. (n.d.). The Stanford professor who pioneered praising kids for effort says we’ve totally missed the point. Retrieved March 16, 2018, from https://qz.com/587811/stanford-professor-who-pioneered-praising-effort-sees-false-praise-everywhere/
Mueller, C. M., & Dweck, C. S. (1998). Praise for intelligence can undermine children’s motivation and performance. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 75(1), 33–52.
Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets That Promote Resilience: When Students Believe That Personal Characteristics Can Be Developed. Educational Psychologist, 47(4), 302–314. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2012.722805