Perfectionism and praise
An interesting article in New York Magazine: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise.
Offering praise has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting. Out of our children’s lives from breakfast to dinner, we turn it up a notch when we get home. In those few hours together, we want them to hear the things we can’t say during the day—We are in your corner, we are here for you, we believe in you.
Dweck’s research on overpraised kids strongly suggests that image maintenance becomes their primary concern — they are more competitive and more interested in tearing others down.
Their meta-analysis determined that praised students become risk-averse [my emphasis] and lack perceived autonomy. The scholars found consistent correlations between a liberal use of praise and students’ “shorter task persistence, more eye-checking with the teacher, and inflected speech such that answers have the intonation of questions.”
It's not a terribly new idea. Just have to hop on over to Alfie Kohn's website and reread Five Reasons to Stop Saying "Good Job!":
Are our reactions helping the child to feel a sense of control over her life -- or to constantly look to us for approval? Are they helping her to become more excited about what she’s doing in its own right – or turning it into something she just wants to get through in order to receive a pat on the head?
As we've been discussing both here and in e-mail and on some of your blogs, perfectionism tends to shut kids down — they stop being interested in doing things that they don't immediately excel at. Bronson's article, the same as Kohn's ten years ago, suggests that if we praise end products rather than effort, kids are less likely to dig in to a difficult task. What do you think?