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The Importance of Praising Students For Effort Vs. Talent

Praise can be an extremely important factor in a student’s growth. It is used to motivate, encourage and inspire children. However, it can also have an adverse effect. When praise is based on innate talent or ability, rather than effort and dedication, praising can harm students. Moreover, praising students exclusively for their natural talents can hinder their performance. Instead, parents and teachers should focus on praising students for their hard work, determination, and ability to overcome challenges. 

That does not mean that teachers and parents should be handing out praise for every effort a student makes. There are ways to praise both effort and achievement effectively to help that student improve. Read on to learn more about the importance of praising for effort instead of talent.

Fixed Mindset Vs. Growth Mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck research on effort and success found that people often embrace one of two different mental approaches to ability. This includes a Fixed mindset and Growth mindset:

  • Fixed Mindset: A fixed mindset includes traits that cannot be changed. With this type of mindset, talent is all that is required to become successful and effort is not necessary to improve said talents. It’s the belief that this innate talent is one you are born with cannot be improved on. That can be applied both ways. A fixed mindset can also have an individual believe that they will be permanently bad at something if they struggle with it. Individuals with this type of mindset may avoid any challenges or useful feedback to improve themselves.
  • Growth Mindset: A Growth mindset involves believing that one’s ability and effort can be improved upon through hard work and dedication. Winston Churchill one said “success if not final; failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.” A Growth mindset contrasts with the fixed mindset in the belief that individuals are consistently improving and growing towards success.

How does a growth mindset help students? Should parents work on praising children for effort rather than talent?

How To Praise Students For Their Efforts

  1. Praise With Honesty and Sincerity

Parents can sometimes fall into a pattern of praising their children solely to boost their self-esteem. However, praise can also be used to motivate them and protect them from specific feelings. However, that can only be effective if the praise is genuinely sincere and honest. Sincere praise motivates students and can improve a child’s concept of themselves and their behavior. Insincere praise can be designed to control a child’s behavior or offers praise that has not been honestly earned. Dishonest praise can be dismissed by the child and impact their will to improve themselves. 

Encouraging words that are inconsistent with the work of the student are insincere. Ensure you are not just praising your child to reinforce or manipulate certain behaviors.

2. Praise A Student’s Efforts and Process

When children are praised for their efforts when completing a task, they will learn to identify success with hard work and dedication. In fact, effort is an important quality that each of us have the power to manage and improve upon. Focusing on the process instead of the outcome helps children become more resilient and persistent. Praising effort helps children develop a growth mindset as they’ll understand the importance of practicing skills. Failure can be avoidable when children put in hard work and are motivated to improve in performance the next time. Praise the entire process including concentration, self-corrections and strategies.

Apply Healthy Ways of Praise

3. Avoid Offering Conditional Praise

Conditional praise is offered to essentially manipulate or control a situation. For example, telling a student “you did well on this problem, just as expected”, that can be rather controlling. Watch your phrasing and focus more on statements that affirm the student’s progress and improvement. Conditional praise can leave the child feeling as though their acceptance is dependent on behavior instead of performance and hard work. This can damage the relationship with students as they feel their acceptance is solely conditional on your praise.

4. Avoid Using Comparison Praise

It can be easy to fall into a pattern of encouraging by comparison. Naturally, children and adults experience comparisons in school, sport, post-secondary and extracurricular activities. However, comparison praise can be deeply harmful and leave children feeling rather vulnerable. Comparison praise limits a child’s potential. By telling a child they are better at a specific task than another child, that by definition means that other child is “worse.” Comparison praising causes children to lose motivation much more quickly and may leave them feeling frustrated, anxious and helpless.

Teaching children the importance of hard work and dedication fosters a more effective, growth-oriented mentality. Success can come from seeing failure as a means of growth instead of decline. Set growth goals for your child and reward them with praise in the right way when they deserve it!

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