April 10, 2021

The puzzle experiment, or why we should not praise the intelligence of our children – The Province

The puzzle experiment, or why we should not praise the intelligence of our children - The Province

"If they want to offer a gift to their children, the best they can do is teach them to love challenges, be curious, enjoy the effort and keep learning. they will not have to be slaves of praise. Praising children's intelligence hurts motivation. "This phrase is from Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University. 'The puzzle experiment'.

An experiment that showed that we often tell our children that they are smart (even if they are) It is not good for them, but quite the opposite.

Two ways to praise, two reactions to the effort

Carol Dweck and her team conducted an experiment with 400 students divided into two groups of 200.

The same puzzle was given to everyone and they were asked to complete it. When finished, one of the groups was congratulated using expressions that praised their intelligence, of the type: "Wow, you are very smart ". On the other hand, the other group received congratulations for the effort: "How hard you have worked."

What the researchers wanted to prove was whether the way to congratulate could have consequences on the attitude of the students. The result was eloquent.

After completing the puzzle, the students were asked to submit to another test. But this time they were given a choice: they could choose between a more difficult test and a simpler test. Two thirds of the boys who had been praised for their intelligence chose the simple test. In contrast, 90% of the children praised for their effort chose the most complicated test.

The two groups undertook a second test that in both cases was of a difficulty similar to the first, although the first group would have announced an increase in difficulty.

These are the results: the group praised for their intelligence worsened their score in this test 20% with respect to the previous one. And the group praised for the effort Your score increased by 30%.

Carol Dweck and her team analyzed the results and came to a logical conclusion: the group to which their intelligence was praised he did not want to risk losing his smart tag and for that reason, he opted for the simple test, instead of trying to make an effort and overcome himself. On the other hand, the group praised for their effort, tried even harder and for that, it obtained better results than in the first test.

Intelligence and effort: a radical change of perspective

This experiment brought about a radical change of perspective about effort and intelligence, and about what we should instill in our children. From him we draw the conclusion that motivating our children to strive and give their best, instead of continually telling them how smart and intelligent they are, is good for them. In this way, we will teach them to see challenges as opportunities of learning instead of seeing them as threats.

Six keys to inculcate the culture of effort in your children

one. Avoid obsessing over the result and put the focus on the attitude, interest and effort of our children to perform some task or face a challenge.

2. Resist to put labels that, although they may seem very positive, may limit the interest of our children to face new challenges. We have already read that students praised for their intelligence did not want to lose their status and therefore avoided facing more complicated challenges.

3. Transmit the pleasure of striving and doing things with enthusiasm and interest and being an example in this sense. Our children learn from us, therefore, it seems logical that if they see that we make an effort, they will do the same.

4. In this new perspective, the error is not a failure but an opportunity to test our effort and exercise our skills and intelligence.

5. Tell them about people who have made it very far after much effort. For example, the athlete who prepares 4 years for 90 seconds of competition or Einstein, which took almost 20 years to develop a formula that we can copy in a notebook in 2 seconds. They are stories that demonstrate the importance of the effort maintained over time, perseverance, to achieve our goals and grow. In this way, we will be explaining to our children that the successes come after a lot of work.

6 Do not overprotect them. If our children can get something for themselves, even if it costs them more, it is preferable to encourage them to do it alone, because their personal satisfaction will be greater. Do not forget that consider ourselves capable is essential to have a good self-esteem.


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