Toddlers who hear praise directed at their efforts, such as "your worked hard on that" are more likely to prefer challenging versus easy tasks and to believe that intelligence and personality can improve with effort than do youngsters who simply hear praise directed at them personally, such as "you're a good girl," new research at the University of Chicago reveals.
"The kind of praise focused on effort is called 'process praise' and sends the message that effort and actions are the sources of success, leading children to believe they can improve their performance through hard work,"...
... "person praise" is focused on the child's characteristics. Parents using person praise might say "you're a big boy," for instance.
... the percentage of process praise parents used when their children were one to three years old significantly predicted whether children welcomed challenges, had strategies for overcoming failure, and thought intelligence and personality were malleable five years later.
... the scholars identified instances in which parents praised their children and classified their praise as either process praise, person praise, or other praise.
Process praise emphasized a child's effort, strategies, or actions (such as, "you're trying your best," "good job counting"). Person praise implied that a child possessed a fixed, positive quality, ("you're a smart girl," "you're good at this"). Other praise included all other types of praise ("you got it," "great").
They then followed up with the children five years later, when they were 7-8 years old, and assessed whether they preferred challenging versus easy tasks, were able to generate strategies for overcoming setbacks, and believed that intelligence and personality are traits that can be developed (as opposed to ones that are unchangeable).
When parents used a larger percentage of process praise, their children reported more positive approaches to challenges and believed that their traits could improve with effort. However, the other two types of praise (person praise and other praise), and the total amount of praise were not related to children's responses.
'In addition, parents of boys used a greater percentage of process praise than parents of girls. Later, boys were more likely to have positive attitudes about academic challenges than girls and to believe that intelligence could be improved,"... [emphasis mine]
It's good to see proof that praising kids' effort, rather than "fixed" qualities, has such a positive effect!
Something else worth emphasizing, relevant to questions about "why aren't there more women in high levels of science/engineering/etc.?"
... parents of boys used a greater percentage of process praise than parents of girls. Later, boys were more likely to have positive attitudes about academic challenges than girls and to believe that intelligence could be improved ...