The pros and cons of praise in parenting

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT talks about praising the process and how over-praising can lead to a fixed mindset
Parenting Advice | How the right kind of praise creates a growth mindset
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The pros and cons of praise in parenting

A prominent voice in this field is Carol Dweck who has defined two types of mindsets. One is a fixed mindset, where the child is told, "you're smart", always told "good job"; they're in a stagnant place from which they feel scared to move forward. The other is a growth mindset. Children who have a growth mindset are told, you know, "you are really trying", "you are really on a journey", "you are doing your thing", and "that's interesting to me and I'm also interested in what that journey is like for you". Those children develop a growth mindset and they're much more likely to push the envelope and to reach higher heights. So, when we tell our child, "you're smart", they're much less likely to choose a more difficult task and to persevere when things get tough. The research is really fascinating. It shows that if you connect with a child about their effort, about their journey, about their process, about what it's like to persevere and strive, that child is so much more likely to attain their potential than the child who is told good job, you're so smart, you're so great. The way of thinking about this is that when you praise a child and just tell them what they are you develop what's called a fixed mind sight. They don't feel like they can venture out from this safe place and they worry about losing face so they tend to be much more careful and safe. Whereas, by telling a child, you know, "how is it going", or "how did you do that?" or "wow, you're really working hard on that", you're creating what is thought of as a growth mind set. That child feels like they can do anything and they love the journey. They love the feeling of challenge and they develop persistence and grit.

Therapist Julie Wright, MFT talks about praising the process and how over-praising can lead to a fixed mindset


Expert Bio

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Julie Wright, MFT

Psychotherapist & Author

Julie Wright, MFT is a marriage and family therapist with an extensive background in infant mental health and early childhood development.  She trained at Cedars Sinai Early Childhood Center and co-developed a program for parents and babies from 0-3 at LA Child Guidance Clinic. Julie specializes in mindful parenting, sleep issues and attachment theory.  She also works in private practice with infants, children, parents and adults.  Julie lives in Los Angeles with her son and often visits family on the east coast.

Julie has written the book, "The Happy Sleeper," Penguin 2014 with her colleague, Heather Turgeon, MFT. The Happy Sleeper gives the topic of baby sleep a fresh perspective. Their approach moves beyond old school ideas like “sleep training”—it’s grounded in research and shaped by new thinking. The Happy Sleeper gives you a clear, easy-to-follow system for transferring the role of independent sleep to your capable child, as they have done for thousands of families in their clinical practice.

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