Praising Teens for Effort May Backfire​

In searching for information on growth mindset, I came across an interesting article in Education Week that posits praising teens for effort can actually backfire. It is a natural tendency for parents and teachers to praise effort, so how can we shift that when we're talking with teens?


First, let's define growth mindset: it's the idea that hard work, dedication, and perseverance are important elements when learning something new. Rather than focusing on natural talent or "brains," growth mindset encourages students to recognize how continued effort toward a goal, along with resilience in the face of setbacks, is the most important part of learning.


Researchers discovered that adolescents, who, as a rule, question what adults tell them, have a tendency to dismiss feedback when adults praise them for working hard. This leads them to not believe that their hard work can enhance their skills. Like much of teenage behavior, this often exasperates adults.


So what can we do?


The article quotes mindset researcher Mary Murphy, who has the following suggestions:


1. Focus on giving students chances to reflect on what they're learning. Ask them to track their growth as they learn a concept or skill so they can watch their progress unfold.


2. Talk with them about how mistakes are natural and necessary as part of learning. Explain that mistakes are what help them recognize what they still need to learn or work on. Tell them about your own mistakes, especially recent ones, that you've learned from.


Best of luck to you as you navigate those tricky teen years with your child!