Good try!

No, it’s not enough to just praise our children for effort, rather than innate ability.  That can be empty praise.  Alas, it’s not all that easy to properly cultivate a growth mindset in our kids.  Good piece in NYT’s Motherlode blog building off a recent article by Carol “it’s all about grit” Dweck:

The growth mind-set has joined “grit” in the pantheon of desirable qualities we long to bestow upon our children, while secretly suspecting that those particular gifts aren’t ours for the giving. We have collectively seized on the idea that a growth mind-set leads to success, while a fixed mind-set produces the child on the floor sobbing “I can’t. I’m bad at this. I’ll never get it.”

And so we sing the effort song again and again, even when the result of that effort is perhaps not all that we would wish, and even when we know that their effort was strongly boosted by our behind-the-scenes help in varying forms…

That’s far from the real message of the research surrounding the growth mind-set. The exclusive focus on effort has been misplaced, says Dr. Dweck, whose book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” delivered the phrase into popular culture. The emphasis should be on learning as an active process, not a goal. “We’re not just saying ‘effort’ anymore,” she says. “We also talk about using good strategies and getting help from others.” Part of a growth mind-set is being willing to learn how best to learn. “Parents may be familiar with the growth mind-set, but they may be using it toward the goal of the next test grade or school application. That’s not what it is. It’s about learning and improving and loving the process. Those other things come about as a byproduct.”

Just as effort alone can’t deliver results, praising effort isn’t enough to help a child develop a love for the challenge of learning. Both parents and teachers should follow that “great effort” message with something more. Dr. Dweck provides a list of suggestions in anarticle for Education Week. When a child is trying but not succeeding, she writes, appreciate the effort, then add “Let’s talk about what you’ve tried, and what you can try next.” When a child is discouraged, avoid the “you can do it if you try” trap. Instead, acknowledge the challenge. “That feeling of math being hard is the feeling of your brain growing.”

As children get older, parents can also talk with them about the ways their successes haven’t been entirely dependent on their own efforts, no matter how great those have been. “They should recognize that not everyone has the opportunities to develop their abilities in the same way,” says Dr. Dweck. “Other kids may be working hard, but not have people teaching them the right strategies, or giving them the help they need to flourish.” …

So how do you raise a child with a growth mind-set, along with a nice healthy appreciation for where it came from and the will to keep it strong? By applying the encouraging messages of the growth mind-set to yourself. I’ll borrow, out of context, another phrase from Dr. Dweck: “The point isn’t to get it all right away. The point is to grow your understanding step by step. What can you try next?”

Good stuff.  So, “good try” is not the easy solution and we know not to say “you’re so smart.”  Like many worthwhile things in life, getting it right is a lot more complicated.

Photo of the day

From In Focus photos of the week gallery.  Love this:

A cat on the pitch during the Everton versus Dagenham and Redbridge game, the FA Cup Third Round, played at Goodison Park in Liverpool, England, on January 9, 2016.

Lee Smith / Action Images / Reuters

Best take on Palin ever?

Maybe.  I haven’t seen many Stephen Colbert clips since he started the late show.  I assume he’s still doing some good stuff, but not all that much political.  But Sarah Palin endorsing Trump is obviously an absolutely irresistible target.

The whole clip is good, but starting about 4 minutes in where Colbert satirizes Palin in endorsing other candidates is truly brilliant.  Watch and you won’t regret it:

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