Don't tell kids they're smart

Discussion in 'General Education' started by lucybelle, Oct 27, 2012.

  1. lucybelle

    lucybelle Connoisseur

    Joined:
    Jan 26, 2012
    Messages:
    1,841
    Likes Received:
    51

    Oct 27, 2012

    Interesting article I read today. It talks about how we should not tell kids they are smart, but rather praise trying. If a kid thinks they're smart they won't try anything they're ''not good at''.

    (Though, I didn't read all of it... just too ADD to make it through all 5 pages! You can get the jist on the first page;) From 2007)
     
  2.  
  3. paperlabs

    paperlabs Rookie

    Joined:
    Aug 4, 2011
    Messages:
    70
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 27, 2012

    I didn't read it, but let me guess. I've heard this many times over the years. It might talk about nihilistic attitudes, don’t really pay attention to what teachers, books etc. are really saying, etc., etc. Probably is a good reminder every so often.
     
  4. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Messages:
    7,946
    Likes Received:
    3

    Oct 27, 2012

    I've seen this before and believe there is certainly some truth here. Sometimes kids cling to that one subject in which they are so smart making that their sole focus. Of course, focus can be good...that's how people often come to find their passion and career. But I don't want a student to not think beyond that subject or skill. I want students to discover other strentghs and interests and not think that if something doesn't come as naturally to them that they can't learn or still enjoy it.
     
  5. DigitalDiva25

    DigitalDiva25 Companion

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2011
    Messages:
    137
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 27, 2012

    I agree with this. If the child who is smart fails at something, he will feel stupid and just give up. I think it's definitely better to praise children for their effort instead
     
  6. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,960
    Likes Received:
    1,148

    Oct 27, 2012

    I can see this to be true with some of the gifted, talented and high achievers. Those who have extra pressure and expectations placed on the might crumble, and in order to excel at everything, they might chose what they will try to excel at.

    But I don't agree with the average student, and definitely not with the lower achiever. For example my students have heard nothing but how they can't do something, how bad they are, worthless, and stupid, to the point that they believe they can't do anything academic, stopped going to school, have a negative attitude toward education, and as a result their math, reading and problem solving skills are way below grade level.

    Any time I tell them how smart they are, most of them shine. Some of them look at me like they don't even believe me saying it.(probably because they haven't really heard it)

    As far as the average student: I believe I'm pretty smart, and that was apparent from an early age, when I learned to read at the age of 4. Everything came easy to me, especially languages, spelling, but also advanced thinking, etc. I was even good at arts (music and drawing/painting). My mom wasn't the type who would shower me with praise all the time, but I aimed to please her and she let me know I was doing well. But my grandma was just so proud of me, and always told me and bragged to others how smart I was (and did this in my presence). I strongly believe this gave me more confidence in my abilities, and it encouraged me to try anything. Basically she believed in me, and that I could do anything, because she thought I was smart.
     
  7. frtrd

    frtrd Rookie

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2012
    Messages:
    92
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 27, 2012

    The same thing happened with me -- when I was a child I was in all the "gifted" classes, my dad would always tell me how smart/intelligent I was. It was a HUGE confidence booster. I probably wouldn't have taken such difficult math classes in high school (math isn't my forte) if I didn't have such a strong view of myself as one of the "smart kids". (Sorry if this sounds full of myself. I have plenty of negative qualities to balance out my smarts, ha.)

    The weird thing is that I was tutoring a middle school girl who was struggling in math, and periodically I would say things like, "Wow, another problem right. You're so smart/good at this!"

    And one day she turned to me really frustrated and said, "Stop telling me that I'm smart." I was really shocked because I thought I was saying it in a really sincere way (e.g. I only said it when she got a really hard problem right). So, I apologized and asked her why it bothered her, but she wouldn't answer. I'm still confused about this now. Having always done well in school, I guess I don't fully understand how the word "smart" makes some kids feel.
     
  8. JustMe

    JustMe Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2006
    Messages:
    7,946
    Likes Received:
    3

    Oct 27, 2012

    Possibly one of two things I experience. One, because she feels stupid when she doesn't get those difficult problems correct. It's pressure. Two, compliments are hard for a lot of people to accept. I still struggle with accepting compliments. I always got compliments on my handwriting, artisitic abilities, and creativity...and I hated it. I don't like attention at all, even through simple (and kind) comments.
     
  9. TeacherGroupie

    TeacherGroupie Moderator

    Joined:
    May 13, 2005
    Messages:
    29,807
    Likes Received:
    1,164

    Oct 27, 2012

    The middle school girl sounds like someone who has been on the receiving end of "smart" as a weapon: "If you're so smart, how come you can't get going in the morning?" This is a classic and vicious double bind, since the charge in the apodosis ("you can't get going in the morning") nearly always requires skills or attributes that don't depend on intelligence: agreeing that the problem is a problem requires one to lie about a basic attribute, and defending that attribute opens one to the charge of not caring enough about the problem. One is screwed either way: there is literally no room in which to be both smart and imperfect, and little to no space in which needing help and struggling is even acceptable.
     
  10. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

    Joined:
    Feb 5, 2011
    Messages:
    6,032
    Likes Received:
    892

    Oct 27, 2012

    I have to agree with other posters that I think being told I was "smart" as a kid helped me. I saw myself as capable of doing any academic task. I knew I could do well in school because I was "smart." Many things I didn't have to work hard at, so if someone praised my "effort" I think that would have sent the wrong message. I later learned that I needed to put a whole lot more effort into math since I wasn't as "smart" in math. It sends the wrong message to the other side too...there are many students who work extremely hard yet don't get good grades. When I taught sped, many of my student put a whole lot more effort and energy into school than I did as a child, yet most of them were failing their gen ed classes. What kind of message does it send to them if a kid who simply already knows the material is getting praised for his "effort"?
     
  11. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Messages:
    4,960
    Likes Received:
    1,148

    Oct 27, 2012

    I think the problem is when someone uses this type of praise wrong. For example
    - use it as a means to pressure the kid: 'you're smart you should be able to do this', meaning if you can't do this task, you're dumb.
    - use it way too often, so it actually loses it purpose and meaning (kinda like when someone says 'I love you' 20 times a day).
    - when it is used vaguely
    - when it is used all the time
    - when it is used when it shouldn't be. For example a student does something really simple, this praise will probably make him feel like he's treated as his inferior.
    - when it's not sincere. I'm sure we've all done this: wanted to praise someone, when there wasn't much to praise. When I didn't do something well, and someone said "you've done a really great job, that was awesome!" I felt they're were lying, that they thought I was dumb for not noticing, and the whole thing just made me feel worse. What they could have done is saying one specific thing that I've done right and praise me for that.

    I've been reading "The inner wealth initiative" (recommended by someone on this board) and although I got a couple of chapters in so far, I already learned so much. The book says when we praise someone, we should be specific about what they'd done that was so right.

    So telling a kid he's smart may not mean much, or it may end up like the above scenarios. I think if we're specific why we say they're smart, not say it ALL the time and not sayi it sounding fake, it would have better effects.
     
  12. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,958
    Likes Received:
    2,110

    Oct 27, 2012

    I tell kids:
    Kiss your brain
    You can do it
    We can do hard things
    Push yourself
    Keep going
    Thumbs up

    ...and sometimes I tell someone they are a smarty. I have no guilt over that.
     
  13. isabunny

    isabunny Comrade

    Joined:
    Jan 9, 2011
    Messages:
    268
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 28, 2012

    This is a "Love and Logic" view and I have followed it since I read the article many years ago. I think it is more of a confidence boost to tell kids they did well because they worked hard and must have been doing a really great job of paying attention, not just because they are smart. It focuses on the fact that hard work is important to accomplishing goals. It also focuses on the point that they have earned those grades. As kids get older they actually do have to study and work hard to get good grades no matter how smart they are, even if they are gifted.
     
  14. EdEd

    EdEd Aficionado

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2011
    Messages:
    3,769
    Likes Received:
    233

    Oct 29, 2012

    I think Linguist92021 hit it on the head in that it's about context. Saying to a child that he or she is smart in absence of specific work or product is probably okay, but the wrong response is to give praise of being "smart" in response to completion of a certain task. So, if a child gets a 90 on a test, it would not be desirable to say, "You're so smart - you got a 90 on that test!" The reason is that it emphasizes immutable traits that a child can't control, and sets up a contrast when a child does NOT do well where the implication is that the child must then NOT be smart because of poor performance.

    The better response would be, "You must have worked really hard because you got a 90 on that test." This statement emphasizes the child's behavior and choices in the context, which are things that are in the domain of choice of the child, and therefore which are influenceable by reinforcement.

    Another subtle aspect of the my suggest response in the last paragraph - notice there is no exclamation point. My response is actually a "neutral" comment in that the teacher is not saying s/he LIKES what happened - the teacher never said "Good job, you worked hard," just "you worked hard." By refraining from passing judgement (even positive judgement) on the behavior, you're allowing kids to make their own determination about the value of what you've reflected, which lends itself to more internalization of the standard of hard work. I definitely think it's okay (and good) to let kids know that you value hard work, but it's also important to give them space to develop their own value orientation toward academics. Kids most likely already know you value hard work, and by not shoving it down their throats, they may be more likely to accept it. It's the same with adults - when someone thinks an idea is his/her idea, there is more buy-in to that idea.

    Another benefit of the "neutral praise" concept is that you set yourself up for more success with giving "neutral criticism" or feedback. Neutrality is seen simply as feedback, rather than overtly positive or negative, so feedback given in a neutral fashion is less likely to be interpreted as negative.
     
  15. Jerseygirlteach

    Jerseygirlteach Groupie

    Joined:
    Aug 22, 2010
    Messages:
    1,439
    Likes Received:
    2

    Oct 29, 2012

    My favorite moment of my teacher career was when I told a kid he was smart. I was giving a quiz to 8th graders and one kid put his head down on the desk. I told him he had to do his best and he said "I don't give a **** about this quiz." I told him he was too smart to just give up, and he had to do his best. He took it. No, he did not do well but...At the end of the day he showed up in my room saying "Thank you Mrs. Jersey for pushing me. No one ever called me smart before and you're right, I could do better if I try. You telling me I'm smart means a lot to me."

    Just a little anecdote.
     
  16. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2001
    Messages:
    24,958
    Likes Received:
    2,110

    Oct 29, 2012

    Good for you, Jerseygirl:thumb: so sad no one ever told him that before.
     
  17. Peregrin5

    Peregrin5 Maven

    Joined:
    Aug 25, 2011
    Messages:
    5,770
    Likes Received:
    1,003

    Oct 29, 2012

    Maybe she feels like you are undermining her effort.

    I get frustrated sometimes, when I'm proud of some of the work I've done that I've put a lot of time and effort into, and then someone comes along and totally undermines it by saying, "Oh, you're just naturally talented" or "You're lucky it worked so well."

    I'm not talented or that lucky, I actually put a lot of sweat and time into these things and it's annoying that others would think otherwise.

    I complete agree with this article by the way. It is one of the topics in Carol Dwyer's book Mindset which I think everyone should read.
     
  18. bondo

    bondo Cohort

    Joined:
    Sep 2, 2010
    Messages:
    646
    Likes Received:
    0

    Oct 30, 2012

    Interesting articles and comments by all. It is always good to praise effort and encourage students to do better. At the same time it is important to designate winners and losers in and out of the classroom. It depends on the individual student. Some kids want more no matter how much praise you heap on them. Others, at the first mention of praise are content. Its a case-by-case basis.
     

Share This Page

Members Online Now

Total: 265 (members: 0, guests: 245, robots: 20)
test