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Dave’s Diary: Watch Your Words Praise the Effort Not the Child???

Michael Loccisano/Getty Images for Tim Hayes

Positive reinforcement works…but…can you over do it with your kids?   One Psychologist claims the results of a new study shows that praising your child in an exaggerated manner might do more harm than good.  I’m not so sure I’m buying that but let’s press on.

Stephen Grosz, author of The Examined Life, says saying something to your child like, “you’re so clever” might cause them to be unhappy later because they feel they cannot meet the exaggerated expectation.  That sounds like a more individualistic reaction rather than a generality but Grosz says he has some numbers to back it up.

He recommends bestowing compliments less frequently and using phrases that acknowledge the child for “trying really hard.” In the study, psychologists from Columbia University asked about 130 students between ages ten and 11 to solve a number of math problems. Afterwards, some kids were told they did very well and were very clever, while others were told they did very well and that they must’ve tried really hard.  That seems like a minor distinction but Grosz says it made a big difference in follow up activities.

Both groups of children were then given more difficult problems to solve, and researchers found that children who were told they were clever did not do as well as the others who were complimented for their effort. (Daily Mail)

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