This post at The Common Room, which is one of my very favorite of all time daily reads, and OK I stole my Sunday scripture post idea from her, got me to thinking about how we talk to our children about the work they do.
In her post, she quotes an interesting study in which 2 groups of children were given identical assignments. One group was told they were smart. The other group was told they were hard workers. Both groups were then offered the opportunity to try an assignment that was more difficult than the first. The children who were told they were hard workers were more likely than the first group to choose to try the harder assignment. It seemed the “smart” group was afraid of losing their title where as the “hard workers” wanted to live up to theirs.
It has made me more aware of how I praise my children. Just this morning my 5 year old was super excited to show me that she could tie her shoes all by herself. Without thinking, I said, “You are so smart!” After reading the above article, I wish I had said, “You worked hard on that, didn’t you?”
The article also brought to mind a study I read years ago (which I can’t find now) that provided 2 groups of children with identical craft materials, like colored paper, glue, glitter, yarn, and crayons. One group was left alone to create whatever they wanted without interruption. The other group was attended by an adult who offered praise periodically. The study showed that the group that was left alone worked longer, made more crafts, and had a more positive report about the experience.
Whenever we have been at the library during Preschool Story Time, I always notice that during the craft time that follows the story, there are lots of mothers making sure their little darlings are cutting straight and have chosen color coordinated beads and, “Persimmon, wouldn’t you rather color the 3 little pigs this shade of pink?” I have stopped attending said Story Time and instead, I just read to my children at home. They can then do a craft if they feel like it, and I don’t even have a masters degree in library sciences.
Both of these studies seem to indicate that, in general, we over praise our children. Here is another article basically saying the same thing. I think when children know their parents approve of their hard work, they will try hard to succeed at things they haven’t tried before. Isn’t that a work ethic we should all strive to achieve?