Should you praise brains or effort?

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What kind of learner are you? We’ve heard that some people learn by watching, others learn by doing it, and still others learn best by reading. What style of learning works best for your child?

Educators have identified seven learning styles: visual, aural, verbal, physical, logical, social and solitary. Most of us use a combination of learning styles to absorb knowledge. While many schools still rely on classroom and book-based teaching with repetition and exams, educators are starting to recognize that these forms of teaching don’t work well for all children.

You may have one child that easily learns a task or sport on the first try, while your other child takes much longer to master the same activity. As parents, it’s hard not to praise the first achiever more. Researchers are finding, however, that a parent’s praise has a tremendous impact on the role of a child’s development.

In her book Mindset, Carol Dweck explores the effects of praise on success. Carol is a Stanford researcher in the field of motivation and suggests that praising brains and talent can actually jeopardize self-esteem and accomplishment. She found that people who believe that abilities can be developed by dedication and hard work actually accomplish more.

With that in mind, it’s important for us as parents to praise our children’s efforts as much as their accomplishments. We need to teach them that their minds are muscles, that they can improve their intelligence (and their grades) through hard work and trying different learning styles.

The Kahn Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the goal of providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere. They created an inspiring video, You Can Learn Anything, to remind us that no one is born smart, we all have to learn.