When it’s too easy
“Great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift.”
In her article The Secret to Raising Smart Kids, Stanford Professor of Psychology Carol S. Dweck writes about children “who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted.
“Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart.
“This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve.
“And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.”
“Praising children’s innate abilities.. reinforces this mind-set, which can also prevent young athletes or people in the workforce and even marriages from living up to their potential.”
Teach a growth mind-set
“On the other hand,” she continues, “our studies show that teaching people to have a ‘growth mind-set,’ which encourages a focus on effort rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.
“People do differ in intelligence, talent and ability. And yet research is converging on the conclusion that great accomplishment, and even what we call genius, is typically the result of years of passion and dedication and not something that flows naturally from a gift.
“Mozart, Edison, Curie, Darwin and Cézanne were not simply born with talent; they cultivated it through tremendous and sustained effort.
“Similarly, hard work and discipline contribute much more to school achievement than IQ does.
Stay teachable and motivated
“Such lessons apply to almost every human endeavor. For instance, many young athletes value talent more than hard work and have consequently become unteachable.
“Similarly, many people accomplish little in their jobs without constant praise and encouragement to maintain their motivation.
“If we foster a growth mind-set in our homes and schools, however, we will give our children the tools to succeed in their pursuits and to become responsible employees and citizens.”
From The Secret to Raising Smart Kids, Scientific American Mind, Dec 2007.
Related article: How Not to Talk to Your Kids, by Po Bronson.
A related book: Your Own Worst Enemy: Breaking the Habit of Adult Underachievement, by Kenneth W. Christian, PhD.