REALITY CHECK: Columbia University studies led by Carol Dweck found that praising effort helps create a positive mindset (or a “I can do it” belief) that also increases persistence and achievement while emphasizing inherent intelligence (“You’re so smart”) does the reverse.
One of the most important traits our kids must develop for successful living is the inner strength and stamina to hang tough through trying times. Just think for a minute about the long-term effect that stressing effort can have on our children! They would learn from an early age that there’s nothing that can stop them from succeeding if they put their heart and soul into their endeavors. And those are the exact lessons our children must be taught if they are going to be able to cope with those inevitable hard knocks life sometimes gives. The good news is that the latest research shows that by consistently using certain strategies with our children we can actually stretch their perseverance.
Over the past few years I’ve devoured child development studies that prove parents can build a “Don’t give up” spirit and then turned the research in practical solutions we can can use to in what I called “Results-Driven Parenting.” Here are five of the dozens of those simple solutions from my latest book, The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries page 426.
1. Develop a new vocabulary. The kinds of words we say to our children can help them learn the value of effort and get into the habit of completing what they start. So here’s a few phrases your can use with your child to stress how much you value their effort: “Don’t give up!” ‘I know you can do it!” “Don’t give up!” “Hang in there. Don’t stop!” “It’s usually harder at the beginning.” “Almost! Try again.” “You’ll get it. Keep at it!” “The more you practice, the easier it will be.” “Keep it up–don’t stop!” “The harder you try, the more successful you’ll be.”
2. Emphasize going for your personal best. Take the focus off always trying to win and instead emphasize doing the very best you can. “How did you play?” “Did you do the best you could?” “What’s the most important thing you learned today?” “Is there anything you wish you had done differently?”
3. Don’t praise the trophy. Praise your kid’s hard work and effort, not his grade or gold star so that he knows what matters most in your eyes is his effort. “Earning that score took a lot of work and time. “Good for you!” “Hey you really were concentrating on the rink before you went into that spin; you really put everything you had into it.” “Your recital wouldn’t have been so wonderful if you hadn’t put so much time into practicing that piece.”
4. Encourage internal praise. Many children have become so dependent on our approval that they don’t know how to acknowledge themselves. A simple way to help them is by pointing out what they did that deserved merit and then reminding them to acknowledge themselves internally (to use “self-talk”). Here’s how it works: suppose your son has had difficulty controlling his temper whenever he loses at his soccer games. This time you noticed that he really made an effort to use self-control and not blame everyone for the loss. At a private moment, encourage him to acknowledge his success: “John, you really made an effort not to say anything negative about the other team today. You used good self-control. Did you remember to tell yourself that you did a great job?
5. Switch your pronoun. Instead of saying “‘I’m’ really proud of your work” say: “’You’ must be really proud of your efforts.” Switching words from ‘I’ to ‘you’ takes the emphasis off of your approval and puts it on your child’s efforts.
There are so many simple ways in our daily encounters that we can teach our children the value of not giving up:
- Pointing out again and again, “Don’t worry about your mistake. Think about what you will do differently the next time.”
- Resisting the urge to step in when your child experiences frustration.
- Helping your child cope with mistakes through your example: “Wow, I sure didn’t do this right. Next time, I’m going to do it this way instead.”
- Or when you conveying the belief to your child, “I know it’s hard. But I admire how hard you’re trying!”
Using proven solutions and implementing what I call “Results-Driven Parenting” (parenting for change) can make real differences on your children’s lives—especially when you choose ones that matter most in raising good kids. No more guesswork. These solutions are based on proven research. So roll of up your sleeves, and go parent!
Portions of this article are adapted from Michele Borba’s latest book,The Big Book of Parenting Solutions: 101 Answers to Your Everyday Challenges and Wildest Worries (Jossey-Bass) on sale now