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You are so good at that!” you announce to the child, firmly believing that this warm praise is going to boost the child’s self-esteem and increase performance. But in study after study, and book after book, the widely accepted consensus is that complimenting kids can cause lifelong problems and actually decrease performance, especially if you are dishing out the wrong type of praise.
The compliments that the majority of us are accustomed to blurting out when a child does something notable are precisely the type of compliments that can have unintended negative side effects. Studies suggest that complimenting children in this way can lead to a mindset that intelligence and certain admirable qualities are innate, or fixed (i.e., kids either have them or they don’t). One study demonstrated that kids who performed well on an easy test and were told, “You must be smart at this,” subsequently chose an easier test when given an option of two more tests to complete. In contrast, 90% of the students praised for effort voluntarily chose the more difficult test.
Fixed compliments are not only dangerous, but also counterproductive.
Here are some examples of these dangerous fixed compliments that paint a picture of innate traits:
- You’re so smart!
- You’re great at math!
- You’re so good at writing!
- You’re such a talented artist!
- You’re a great reader!