Prais­ing kids may PRO­MOTE CHEAT­ING

Ow­ing to the com­plex­ity in­volved in prais­ing, it is es­sen­tial for adults to learn the man­ner­ism that doesn’t pro­mote dis­hon­est be­hav­iour

Millennium Post - - TOWN -

Par­ents and teach­ers must learn to give kids the right kind of praise as re­searchers have found that the wrong kind of praise can back­fire. Chil­dren who are praised for be­ing smart, or who are told they have a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing smart, are more likely to be dis­hon­est and cheat, say two stud­ies.

“Giv­ing chil­dren wrong kind of praise makes them dis­hon­est,” said co-au­thor of both the stud­ies, Kang Lee, Pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

The first study, pub­lished in the jour­nal Psy­cho­log­i­cal Sci­ence, showed that preschool­ers who were praised for be­ing smart were more likely to cheat sub­se­quently than those who were praised for do­ing “great” in a par­tic­u­lar task.

Sim­i­larly, the sec­ond study, pub­lished in the jour­nal De­vel­op­men­tal Sci­ence, found that preschool­ers who were told that they had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing smart were also more likely to cheat.

In the first study, re­searchers asked three and five-year-olds to play a guess­ing game. When chil­dren did well on one oc­ca­sion they were praised in one of two ways: one-half of the chil­dren were praised for be­ing smart, while the other half were praised for their per­for­mance. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing ei­ther type of praise, the chil­dren con­tin­ued to play the guess­ing games.

Re­searchers then left the room af­ter ask­ing chil­dren to prom­ise not to cheat by peek­ing at the an­swers. Their be­hav­ior was then mon­i­tored by a hid­den cam­era.

Re­sults showed that de­spite the sub­tle dif­fer­ence be­tween the two forms of praise, the chil­dren who were praised for be­ing smart were more likely to act dis­hon­estly than the chil­dren who had been praised for their be­hav­ior in a spe­cific game.

The re­sults were the same for both ages. In the sec­ond study, re­searchers told each child that he or she had a rep­u­ta­tion for be­ing smart. Hear­ing this, sim­i­larly to re­ceiv­ing di­rect “smart­ness” praise, also had the ef­fect of in­creas­ing chil­dren’s ten­dency to cheat. “Praise is more com­plex than it seems,” Lee said. Over­all, for adults, the stud­ies show the im­por­tance of learn­ing to praise in a way that does not prompt or pro­mote dis­hon­est be­hav­ior. But what could be more af­firm­ing than telling your child, “Good job!” “I’m proud of you” or “You are smart.” The cor­rect choice of words also play an im­por­tant role. As al­ready men­tioned, in­stead of fo­cus­ing on the achieve­ments of the child, it would be sug­gested to ap­pre­ci­ate their char­ac­ter. Also, it was found that schoolaged kids praised for their in­tel­li­gence be­came less likely to at­tempt new chal­lenges. But when praised for their ef­forts, they worked longer and harder. Overem­pha­siz­ing in­tel­lect or tal­ent – and then be­liev­ing such traits are in­nate and fixed – make kids more vul­ner­a­ble to fail­ure, fearful of chal­lenges and less mo­ti­vated to learn. It’s very ob­vi­ous that chil­dren will fol­low what they see. So don’t just praise or lec­ture kids about good char­ac­ter, com­pas­sion, and char­ity, but model these at­tributes. Apart from afore­men­tioned tricks, prais­ing the in­ner qual­i­ties of the child will also help. We are a ma­te­ri­al­is­tic so­ci­ety that puts far too much em­pha­sis on out­side ap­pear­ances. Giv­ing teen-aged kids well-de­served com­pli­ments that fo­cuses on their in­ner qual­i­ties, such as telling them that they’re “kind,” “help­ful” or “fun,” in­stead of fo­cus­ing on what they wore or owned, re­duced their ma­te­ri­al­is­tic ten­den­cies and build self-es­teem in them.

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