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The Secret to Raising Smart Kids: Hard work vs. Talent

thesecrettalent.jpgWe always admire sheer talent. We look up to people with exceptional intelligence and abilities and we always say: that`s the way to success.

An article in the Scientific American tells us that this is actually the wrong way of thinking. Over 30 years of scientific research indicates that high IQ, talent, and confidence in your abilities are not necessarily the recipe for success. In fact, putting too much emphasis on these aspects makes people vulnerable to failure and scared of challenges.

As parents, we always praise our children and try our best to build up their self-esteem. ‘You can do it. You are good, even better than the rest.‘ Researchers call this the ‘fixed mind-set’, a way of thinking which emphasizes that the smart ones always excel with minimal effort. This mind-set, however, they claim, is actually counterproductive and can actually prevent young athletes or budding geniuses from living up to their full potential.

What they recommend instead, in a ‘growth mind-set’, a way of thinking that focuses on effort. We have to teach our kids to handle setback and defeat. Poor performance is not due to lack of talent or intelligence but due to complacency and lack of effort. Many smart kids would think ‘I`m so clever I don’t really need to study to get good grades.’ When they fail, they attribute their failure to lack of intelligence and lose faith in themselves.

In a study on junior high students, psychologists report the following findings:

‘Fixed mind-set’ students are more concerned about looking smart and have a low regard for learning. They have a negative view of effort, and that hard work is only necessary for those with lesser abilities. When faced with failure, they get discouraged and may resort to cheating.

‘Growth mind-set’ students generally feel that learning is more important that getting good grades. They also have a high regard for hard work and face failure as a challenge to find a new strategy to learn.

As take home message, the researchers say that praising our kids is not bad as long as we do it the right way. We should praise them not for their talents but for their effort.

Wow, you’re really good‘ should be replaced by ‘Wow, you really worked hard on this.’

Dweck, CS, 28 Nov 2007. The Secret to Raising Smart Kids. Scientific American.

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