Tuesday, December 04, 2007

The secret to raising smart kids

There's an article in Scientific American that claims to know the secret to raising smart kids. This sounds more like a theory than a secret, but it makes sense. Here is the key concept:
"Many people assume that superior intelligence or ability is a key to success. But more than three decades of research shows that an overemphasis on intellect or talent—and the implication that such traits are innate and fixed—leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unmotivated to learn."
Thus, telling a child they are 'smart' or 'gifted' will have them come to believe that things will come to them without working for them. Instead, the study says, focus on the effort.

In real terms, this means don't say the following when your kid gets an A.

"Wow, you're a really gifted smart kid. Way to go."

By saying this, you reinforce the notion that results come easy. It's possible (though not guaranteed) that your child will begin to think that things are easy because they are so smart.

Instead, when your kid gets an A, say this:

"Wow, you really worked hard for that A. You have worked hard to become smart."

The A was a result of hard work, and not a result of being gifted. Fact is, we get stuff in life through hard work, not simply by coasting by. The study goes on to say:
"Teaching people to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, produces high achievers in school and in life. Parents and teachers can engender a growth mind-set in children by praising them for their effort or persistence (rather than for their intelligence), by telling success stories that emphasize hard work and love of learning, and by teaching them about the brain as a learning machine.
There will be times when we'll tell Autumn that she's smart and gifted. That's life. but I think I'll remember this post, and be sure to add that it was through her hard work that she became smart and gifted. To me, that makes perfect sense.

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