“You Are Smart” vs. “You Must Have Worked Hard”

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A few weeks ago, some friends and I were discussing the reasons that gifted kids sometimes end up struggling in their later school years.  One of the friends is a parent of a grown gifted son, and the other two of us teach and parent gifted kids.  We talked about recent research which seemed to support that students who are praised for their intelligence instead of for their effort, often give up when the work gets more challenging because they are afraid of being perceived as “not intelligent anymore.”  Although this is not scientific evidence, my friend’s grown son had agreed with this idea, admitting that he had avoided difficult work in school whenever possible for this exact reason.  I noted that many of the high school students that I used to tutor also seemed to have this issue.  They were failing classes, yet described as bright and gifted kids.

Last week, Larry Ferlazzo posted this video by Carol Dweck, “The Effect of Praise on Mindsets,” which actually addresses this topic.  If you are ever in the position to encourage a child, I recommend that you watch this video.  It is a powerful example of how our words can shape those we teach.

4 thoughts on ““You Are Smart” vs. “You Must Have Worked Hard””

  1. This is so true! I was in Gifted and Talented classes all the way through high school, yet in my first semester in college my GPA was 2.7. I didn’t know how to study because I never needed to before. It was a huge wake up call.

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