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Old 28.10.2008, 18:56
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Want to build your child's self-esteem?

An article I saw today that parents raising kids might find interesting. I have read Carol Dweck's book "Mindset - The new psychology of success". It raises some interesting points that at first seem counter intuitive.


Globe and Mail, October 28, 2008

You're so smart. You're the best hockey player on your team. Your colouring is genius.

All are self-esteem boosters that parents lavish on their children to make them feel good about themselves and prepare them for success.
And all are wrong.

A growing body of research is finding that praise based on talent and intelligence - as opposed to effort - not only doesn't help kids achieve success, it actually backfires.

Children who are praised as smart, special and talented stumble at school when faced with challenges that don't immediately reinforce the mantras they hear at home. They're also more likely to avoid tasks at which they may fail than children who are praised instead for their hard work. And they are more apt to lie and cheat well into their university years. Psychologist Polly Young-Eisendrath calls it the self-esteem trap.

"It's the expectation of being exceptional and the pressure on oneself to be exceptional which creates a kind of restlessness and sense of self-consciousness," says Dr. Young-Eisendrath, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Vermont.

What's more, according to her new book, The Self-Esteem Trap: Raising Confident and Compassionate Kids in an Age of Self-Importance, overpraised children don't outgrow these setbacks.

So, she and others propose a brave new model for praise that closes the door on the self-esteem movement of the 1960s and 1970s.
Job one: Focus on a child's effort and on how they tackle tasks. Above all, let your kids know just how ordinary they are.

"There's a kind of wisdom in ordinariness that we seem to have forgotten," Dr. Young-Eisendrath says. "It's uplifting to know everyone struggles."
Otherwise, children may end up with many of the same problems Dr. Young-Eisendrath now sees regularly in the young adults whom she treats in her practice. She noticed that many of their woes stem back to being told how special they were by their boomer parents throughout their childhoods.

"To me it's the most ironic kind of blind spot that we've ever had as parents," she says, including herself in the overpraising demographic. "A whole generation of parents did something all at once. We shifted the viewpoint of parenting from raising a citizen and a member of a family to being overly focused on the self."
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor and researcher at Stanford University, says she sees the burgeoning area of academic research in which she's been working for 10 years finally breaking through to a civilian audience.

"Praising intelligence and talent feels so intuitive to people," she says. "But the minute parents think about it, they realize it hasn't worked."
Her provocative study last year of 400 New York fifth graders compared two groups of children who wrote an IQ test involving relatively easy puzzles.
One group of children was praised as intelligent and the other for making a good effort. In subsequent testing, the "smart" kids backed away from a potentially difficult assignment when an easier one was offered.

They took their failure at another very difficult test as a sign they weren't smart at all. And in a final test, which was exactly the same as the first one, the children who were tagged as intelligent did about 20 per cent worse than they had at the outset. The kids praised for their effort improved their score by 30 per cent.

"Telling a child they're special and different from other children - the implication is 'better than' - makes them feel they deserve things that they haven't necessarily earned," Dr. Dweck says. "They can be really bitter when these things don't come their way."

By labelling a child smart or talented, Dr. Dweck says, you are in effect outsourcing their self-esteem. The more children are praised, the more they may be looking over their shoulder: "Am I going to get praise? Do people think this is good?"

"It removes it from their own enjoyment and self-evaluation to someone else's," she says.

Her advice, based on her research, is to foster in children a "growth mindset" that they can develop their abilities through effort. Resilient kids don't think they're bad when they fail at something, she says.

"My message is not 'don't praise,' " she says, "but 'praise in a way that's helpful to the child.' "

Some parents are already making a conscious effort to buck the self-esteem juggernaut. Christine Hall of Burlington, Ont., says she tries to offer comments such as "I'm so happy for you" when one of her sons, say, does well at a sporting event.

"I'm happy for him that he achieved the result he was aiming for, not proud of his result. I don't want him to ever think he has let me down if he doesn't achieve a specific result."

That also leaves room if one of her kids does achieve a spectacular result, such as a high finish in a race or a handful of goals in a game.
"Then I do praise their result, along with their effort. It would be strange to them if I didn't."

In addition to praising effort instead of intelligence, Dr. Dweck has found, there are positive benefits to praising a child's strategy and process.
In another study she conducted, she found that even telling a child she is a good drawer makes a child vulnerable later on when she makes a mistake. "They're harder on themselves."

While Dr. Young-Eisendrath says she doesn't want to blame parents - "They're doing what they thought they were supposed to do" - she does see a number of easy ways to avoid the self-esteem trap.

She bemoans the elevation of everyday childhood milestones to major causes of elation, including the trend toward potty-training parties in her home state of Vermont.

"Potty training in my day was more of a requirement. You didn't celebrate with a cake in the shape of a toilet."
By age 11, she says, children should be dealing with managing their grades on their own. Teenagers should do their own college and university applications.
Dr. Young-Eisendrath argues that by stepping out of the way and letting children tackle problems on their own, they will build true self-esteem.

"It's recasting the framework of how you work with self-confidence. Life always involves difficulty and there's a process for accomplishing anything. You have to have patience.

Praise, then and now

OLD

You're brilliant.
You're a great hockey player.
You're smart.
You're so talented.
You're a great colourer.
You're a good artist.

NEW

I really like the way you tried all different ways and found one that worked.
I'm really happy for you - you worked really hard on the ice today.
I like the way you took on a hard task. I like the way you stuck to it.
You're stretching yourself. You're trying new things.
I like the way you used colours.
That drawing makes me happy. Tell me about it.
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Last edited by Verbier; 28.10.2008 at 19:00. Reason: to redo the spacing between paragraphs.
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:14
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Hi Verbier
Thanks - as a parent and teacher found this very interesting reading, and supports our daily work at school, and mine at home. Would like to hang this in the staffroom at work - can you tell me where exactly you got the article from?
Regards,
einalem
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:16
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

classic I-statement approach - but don't copy and paste the whole thing please....

Verbier cites where he copied and pasted from
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:21
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Found this, very similar or same article:

http://www.printthis.clickability.co...artnerID=73272

I showed my husband and he said he'd seen the article before, or something very similar (he's a teacher ).
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:30
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Hi Lob
You're quick off the mark! I knew the minute I saw you'd responded what your response would be Actually, I had no intention of copying and pasting the whole thing (have had my fingers burned before, when a newbie), which is why I was asking for Verbier to cite the exact source (I had a quick look on the website to try and locate the article, so wasn't being completely lazy!). Thought colleagues at work might like to hear that they are doing something right
Not quite sure what you mean by the 'classic I-statement approach'? Would you like to have an online discussion on the merits of this particular article, or is it OK if I just hang it up at work
Regards,
einalem
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:34
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Wikipedia reference-linkI-statement
actually that Wiki page is rather average as the I-statement for me is to state how something makes you feel. It is not necessarily to make a negative more positive but simply to make the recipient of the message know how you feel.

And Verbier is the naughty copy/paste artist
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Old 28.10.2008, 23:43
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Thanks for the clarification. Have never head this phrase used before - interesting reading in Wiki. Realised that we teachers use both the I- and you-statements according to how assertive/comprehending, postive/negative we want to be (slightly off topic, but there you go). Actually, I thought you were calling me egocentric because I asked to use the article (I'm still stepping very carefully on the EF) - just goes to show that we have to measure/clarify others' words very carefully
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Old 29.10.2008, 00:32
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

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Hi Verbier
Thanks - as a parent and teacher found this very interesting reading, and supports our daily work at school, and mine at home. Would like to hang this in the staffroom at work - can you tell me where exactly you got the article from?
Regards,
einalem

Hi there. Just got back from dinner with friends. Sorry for the delay. I should have also given the link with the post but here it is now.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...ifeFamily/home

Here is the Amazon link to the book I mentioned.

http://www.amazon.com/Mindset-Psycho...5233028&sr=1-1
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Old 29.10.2008, 01:51
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

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Children who are praised as smart, special and talented stumble at school when faced with challenges that don't immediately reinforce the mantras they hear at home. They're also more likely to avoid tasks at which they may fail than children who are praised instead for their hard work. And they are more apt to lie and cheat well into their university years.
As a regular watcher of American Idol and X-Factor, I think the audition episodes (which I have to say have become too painful and annoying to watch) for these "talent" competitions are evidence of the damage caused by the "praise" lavished on kids these days from day 1 by their family and friends telling them that they're the "best", "special", "talented", "number one", etc. It really sets them up for big disappointments as this praise is typically not founded in reality. You see the utter devastation that these kids experience when someone finally gives them the cold hard assessment of their abilities. In this case, it's not the judges being cruel but in my opinion the parents who continued to let or even encouraged their children to think that they were really talented and could make a go of it when it blatantly obvious this wasn't the case. Don't get me wrong, kids need to have dreams, but at some point someone needs to step in and make sure that they aren't chasing "pipe" dreams.
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Old 29.10.2008, 16:21
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Interesting, but not new. As an ever struggling parent I happened to read the book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk -- which was written some 25 years ago and gives exactly this type of advice.

Apparently, if you are told 'You are great' or 'You are so smart', your natural reaction will be 'Why are they saying this? Are they doing it because they want something from me?' and apparently, children feel this way, too. So instead one should try to concentrate on the actual achievement by describing what it is exactly that you liked and why you liked it. It is therefore better to say 'I really like this painting that you did, especially the way you put colours together' or 'The part where you wrote about how you learned to ride a bike was really amusing'.

I tested this with my own children and it works -- I can see that they feel much better about themselves if I make an effort and communicate praise in this way.
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Old 29.10.2008, 16:33
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Just when you think you've got this parenting thing licked, along comes another study...



I would never say all that "I really like your painting, it makes me happy!" to anyone, let alone my own child, because if I did people would look at me as if I had had a personality transplant (or had been popping drugs).

I think you have to react naturally and stay true to your personality; there is not a kid on this earth that can't spot an insincere adult who is "trying to say the right thing".

My reaction would be - "Mini-Sandgrounderette, that's ace! Let's stick it on the fridge."

Tell me that's not going to screw him up for life...
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Old 30.10.2008, 23:54
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

Hi Verbier
Thanks for those links
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Old 31.10.2008, 00:16
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

.........................................

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Old 31.10.2008, 00:30
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

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there is not a kid on this earth that can't spot an insincere adult who is "trying to say the right thing".
So very, very true!
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Old 31.10.2008, 00:48
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

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Interesting, but not new. As an ever struggling parent I happened to read the book called How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk -- which was written some 25 years ago and gives exactly this type of advice.

That book was a classic when our kids were young (I better be careful here...my age is showing) but for some of us just too busy raising our kids with little time to read a ton of books about how to raise then, we read the classic book at the time, like Dr. Spock's baby and childcare book, for example, and then we did what we thought was best and hoped it worked. Rather than spending hours pouring over articles or books, take the time to show a genuine interest in whatever your kids are doing and show that you support them. Try not to discourage them even if you know a new interest might be just a whim. Be there for them. That will make all the difference in the world. Lastly, you will be surrounded by unsolicited advice from all sides. As a parent, you know your child best so just do what you instinctively feel is right. We're not perfect, and if you make a mistake, and well all do, it's okay for your child to see that too.
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Old 31.10.2008, 10:06
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Re: Want to build your child's self-esteem?

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...Rather than spending hours pouring over articles or books, take the time to show a genuine interest in whatever your kids are doing and show that you support them...
Mrs Doolittle, I do agree with you, but am incorrigibly bookish . Faced with any challenge, my first thought is 'Perhaps there is a book about this that I can read'. Unfortunately, most parenting books turn out to be quite disappointing, either offering advice which is questionable or unimplementable or outlining a paradigm of parenting that is too esoteric to translate into anything practically applicable. However, How to Talk... is one notable exception and I would recommend it to anyone dealing with children.
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