Talented and Gifted Children
August 9th, 2021
I have recently had a few conversations regarding talented and gifted children with a few parents that were in praise mode too often regarding a child's gifts where they were unaware of the downstream effects of such a parenting behavior.
Effort and praise of effort is a key to success according to Carol Dweck, a Stanford Psychologist. Many times in the last few decades, I have brought up the topic of effort and resilience. Carol Dweck, is a muse for future teachings. In her book, Mindset, she lays out the case for the effort and praise theory over the praise for ability theory.
She has studied children for years and noted that children that are praised for effort routinely outperform their peers who were praised for their smarts. Why would this be?
According to Dweck, when you train an elementary school student to accept praise for their effort they will spend more time persevering on a task even in the face of abject failure.
She calls it attribution theory. This theory is concerned with the persons ability to judge the root causes of events and their behavior. When children do not ascribe an attribution to a failed event, they are more likely to find another path to success. If they ascribe a belief that they are not smart enough, then they will quit earlier.
We often believe that ability is the root of success and this is true to a point of difficulty. When it gets hard, ability is a trap. Perseverance becomes the route of success. Think of the child that excels in sports and does not put in much effort. When other kids catch up in skill and the game gets more technical, the child will fall on his false sense of ability where what he needs is desire and effort.
Now go back to parental programming. We tell our kids that they are great and talented and we do it often!!!!!! Our kids feel empowered while it is easy and then start to falter and get anxious that their power is not all that great.
Dweck's research shows that our children need no prompting about their natural ability, but instead need effort and resilience praise.
I think of the great flops in pro sports and surmise that they may have had parental praise to a fault and the difficulty of the upper levels of sports undermined their confidence.
Praise effort often and leave the talent piece to the peer group.