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Po Bronson: The Problem with Praise

Eighty-five percent of American parents believe it’s important to tell their kids they’re smart. And 85 percent of American parents may be wrong.

In recent years, the self-esteem movement born in the 1960s has run into some serious opposition when it comes to scholars who think about raising kids.

You think telling young sons and daughters they’re brilliant, wondrous, smart, smart, smart is a gift? Maybe not. Newer research suggests that encouraging kids to strive, to try, to grow is the way to really fire up their engines. That a shower of praise can be paralyzing.

This hour On Point: kids, self-esteem, and the caution not to praise too much.

Guests:

Po Bronson, writer, social documentarian and author of numerous articles, novels and non-fiction works including What Should I Do With My Life? His latest piece is the cover story of New York Magazine: How Not to Talk to Your Kids: The Inverse Power of Praise

Carol Dweck, Professor of Psychology at Stanford, and author of Mindset

Bob Younglove, Vice President of the National Association for Self-Esteem.

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  • Debbie

    I was a teacher when I felt like the self esteem wave had reached ridiculous proportions.  We went from honoring the students who had truly worked hard and done well to basically rewarding many for merely showing up.  I was so relieved when a forward thinking principal reined it back and we then rewarded those who deserved the honors.  Being told as a child that I was smart, I realize that it did set me up for failure when faced with harder things.  I remember when I first realized that no one was born knowing anything, so it was ok that I hadn’t learned this or that yet.  It was a totally freeing insight.

  • Sagebrush

    I have a very good early memory and I can recall at a very young age being infuriated by praise for doing things that I thought were “routine” or “obvious.”  As I re-construct my mental state at the time, it went something like… “OF COURSE I spelled “house” right.  I’m SUPPOSED to be able to spell “house” right, aren’t I.  So WHAT is the big deal?”  Not that I could articulate that at six.  At the time, it just came out as anger my parents couldn’t understand.

  • Samsara

    I don’t understand why Carol Dweck wasn’t the ‘main’ guest. Didn’t Po Bronson base his article on her work? 

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