The Inverse Power of Praise Essay

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The Inverse Power of Praise: Should We Praise Our Children?
Giving praise to our children comes naturally; most of us have done it hundreds of times without even thinking about it. The phrases: “you’re so smart” or, “wow you did a great job” just roll off our tongue. After all who doesn’t like to receive recognition for a job well done? But by praising children, are we setting them up for failure? Telling our kids they are smart does not keep them from underperforming, but instead might be causing it. B.F. Skinner’s work in operant conditioning showed us the process in which behavior can be manipulated (Wood, et al, 2008, p. 155), but Skinner didn’t take into account the long term effects of such manipulation. Are we conditioning children
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They tend to adopt lower standards for success and ultimately settle for less as well, (Cole et al, 1999).

Is there an inverse power of praise? New research suggests that praising your child can have the opposite effect of its intended purpose (Dweck, 1999). For over a decade, a researcher named Carol Dweck, has studied the effects of praise on school aged children from twenty New York schools. Dweck and her research assistants conducted a series of experiments on over four-hundred fifth graders. The researcher’s would pull children from the classroom and have them take a nonverbal IQ test with puzzles that were easy enough all the children would do well. After the test the researchers told the children their score and gave them a single line of praise. Divided into two groups at the beginning, some of the students were praised for their intelligence with lines like, “You must be smart at this.” The other students received praise for their effort “You must have worked really hard.” Dweck used just a single line of praise to see how sensitive children were to this form of praise.

For the second round the students were given a choice, one choice was a test more difficult than the first, the other, was a test just as easy as the first. The majority of the students praised for their intelligence chose the easy test. Why did this happen? “When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell

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