Process Praise: The way you respond to your child can have a profound impact on their future learning, effort, and success.

Posted by Katie Bala on Oct 6, 2017 3:44:35 PM

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Does your child shy away from challenges or quit activities at the first sign of a struggle? Is your child fixated on perfect scores? Is your child carrying a constant need for validation and reward?   Learning about fixed and growth mindsets will empower you to help your child avoid these damaging patterns, permitting lifelong learning and boundless potential.  

Through decades of research, Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University DSC_0122.jpgpsychologist and one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation, discovered that an individual's belief about their intelligence has the ability to limit their motivation and effort.  Some people have a “fixed mindset” believing that their intelligence in unchangeable.  While others believe in a “growth mindset” and that it is possible to grow your intelligence through effort.

Children with a fixed mindset can believe that success is tied to having innate talent.  That some are born with the ability to succeed, and others simply are not.  This generates a passive attitude toward effort, especially when facing a difficult task.

Dweck elaborates:
When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure. Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control, they come to see themselves as in control of their success.

Additional research shows that the manner in which parents respond to children can have a profound impact on their mindset.  Praising a child for being smart promotes a fixed mindset, sending a message that success is trait-based, or tied to an innate ability.  On the contrary, praising the child’s DSC_0246.jpglearning process can promote a growth mindset.  A child begins to recognize that their effort, focus, and determination led to their success.  They also see evidence that learning requires perseverance and the ability to stretch one's self.

Process praise is easier said than done. Look for the effort your child displayed that led to their success.  Praise the concentration that was applied to homework, the ability to follow directions closely, the way a problem was worked out in the space provided.  Outside of school, seek out opportunities to praise practiced skills in extra curriculars instead of simply saying, “Great game!”  Your feedback can either encourage your child to face challenges, or run from difficulty as an easy way out.  

Dweck offers some more tips to help you strengthen your child’s growth mindset, by encouraging you to:

Say this...

Not that...

“I can see you worked so hard on this!”

“You are so smart!”

“It seems like it’s time to try a new strategy.”

“It’s ok, maybe you’re just not cut out for this.”

“I like watching you do that!”

“You’re a natural at that!”

“It looks like that was too easy for you.  Let’s find something challenging so your brain can grow.”

“You did that so quickly! Great job!”

“You just don’t understand it yet. What strategies can you try to understand it better?”

“That’s wrong! Are you paying attention in class? It seem like you aren’t even trying!”

Being a parent can feel simultaneously like the most difficult and most rewarding task you will ever take on. As a parent of three, I strive to help my children become the best version of themselves, and with that goal in mind, I can make great progress by reinforcing messages of process praise. As a DSC_0038-1.jpgteacher, I embrace and cultivate growth mindset in my classroom.  In class we discuss how we can train our brain to think differently to accomplish our goals.  We believe that failure is a sign of growth because with each wrong answer, our brains become a little stronger.  With process praise and adopting a growth mindset,your child(ren) can face adversity and tackle challenges in the classroom and beyond!  


 To learn more about the effects of mindset on success, and to test your mindset, visit:

The Power of Believing That You Can Improve: Ted Talk with Carol Dweck


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