I'm sure she doesn't "get" a lot of it at this stage, but I bet she will learn a surprising amount from sticking with it.
I've had to defend the fact that I let a three year old watch Futurama many a time. Mostly to people who would rather I show things like Dora (I don't like my kid yelling at the TV) or movies like The Little Mermaid (truly horrific from viewpoint of relationship modeling). Admittedly sometimes my kid walks around quoting Bender "Ass Ass Ass Ass Ass!" and it might one day get sent to the Principle's office but she also admires female star ship captains, recognizes hard work (fry and the holophoner), and naturally distrusts cephalapod doctors. There are a lot more issues I hope she can start to pick up like the value of friendship, that math is awesome and to never be without your doomsday device "for duck huntin'!"
Sorry for the tangent.
It's interesting that the politics have shifted a bit, though. I remember the emphasize-effort view being associated with clearly "liberal", almost hippie approaches, that what's important is encouraging every kid to give it their best try, so they actualize their own potential, etc. Meanwhile the more "conservative" view was very results-oriented, sort of: I don't give a damn if your kid is trying hard or lazy, all that should matter in math class is whether he does the math right or wrong. The current wave of articles don't seem to have that same political divide.
If I remember, say, algebra class, the kids who did best were mostly kids who found algebra easy. Somehow it just made sense to them, and the concepts clicked with them as soon as they were introduced. If you praised them for putting in effort, would that be believable? Maybe it's different in classes which are heavy on memorization, but that was my experience in concept-heavy classes; the best students just got stuff instantly, and subjectively felt it to be nearly effortless.
Certainly in my own strengths/weaknesses, I felt that I put in the least effort in the classes I did best in. Where I put in more effort was stuff I wasn't as good at. Praising me for that might've been believable, but if someone praised me for putting in effort in the stuff I was really good at, my reaction would've been sort of incredulous, since I hadn't done so. Not consciously as "effort", anyway; though it's plausible there are things I did in my spare time as "fun" that shaped what I was good at (like puttering around with computers, and reading a lot of books).
Before someone mentions the "local library", there was none during my high school years. The closest one (in the next town over) specifically barred people from my town from using it (taxes and another less happy social reason).
smart = results/effort
I also recall someone on Quora referring as the distorted picture in places like Stanford described as the "duck syndrome": on the surface, everyone seems to be coasting calmly, but below, they are paddling like mad.
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Praising kids and people can be so friggin' difficult. I remember playing football (soccer) in school, and I was a bit of a geek, but when I played, I would sometimes get all these "compliments": "Nice one, kmfrk!", "You played a great match today" from class mates and the gym class teacher. Most meant well by it - some didn't - but even though I wasn't very old, what was going on was very transparent. (I was a blatantly bad player, except as a goalie, so I took the compliments about my role as the latter more to heart.)
It downright annoyed me, because I knew that I was awful.
It has made it very hard for me to discern actual praise in my life.
results = effort x smart
smart = sum(previous efforts)
immediate results = immediate effort * sum(previous efforts)
It's the basic heuristic of elegant code, for example: elegant code maximizes the ratio of results to coding effort. The opposite is when you get the results, but by slogging through a bunch of inelegant boilerplate.
It's also the whole premise behind the "hacking the workweek" type ideas, though I realize not everyone likes those.
If anything, I'd say it's a pretty pervasive part of hacker culture, and what differentiates it to some extent from "normal" engineering culture: hackers aim for that results/effort win, the cool hack, virtuosic performance, etc., rather than the N-hour straightforward, carefully managed slog. Not even just because it saves time/money, but because somehow it's intrinsically interesting to see people finding ways to get great results via a route other than "I just plowed through it and got it done". That's sometimes necessary too, but it's not the part that gives the hacker spirit a spark.
I have trained track and field for some years now and if I would try to compare myself with Michael Johnson, I would always be a failure. But in every sport you are (at the end) just trying to improve yourself and competing against yourself. My point is that you could have been doing a good game (for you) even without being anything similar to Pele, and maybe they were praising you for that.
It's also a reminder to be specific about your praise, too - nebulous praise is useless.
Agreed. I hit the wall in the final year at University. Worst time ever.
I had noticed the same pattern in myself. My parents would tell me that I'm smart, and then I'd get pissed and frustrated at my math homework if I didn't understand the concepts within a grand total of 15 minutes. Then Discrete Math hit me and I realized that there would be no way for me to survive on just 15 minutes of attempts of any problem/concept(but I'd still be frustrated all of the time).
In "Outliers" Malcolm explores what makes a person successful and asks the question, "Why do some talented people flame out early while others go on to brilliant careers?"
Malcolm's main premise is, "Success doesn't have much to do with talent. It's almost always a product of hard work and the culture of which we live our lives."
But I think Malcolm is really describing the development of genius and how the environment/culture either encourages or discourages people from focusing on a certain areas or ideas. Go the wrong way and you miss developing into your true potential.
From my perspective, genius is not so much measured by IQ, although a high IQ helps, but genius can be measured by how rare and valuable your perspective is and how effectively you see patterns in- and make associations or connections among disparate ideas. Paul Cooijmans has a similar perspective (http://www.paulcooijmans.com/genius/).
Developing these rare or unique perspectives usually takes deliberate and devoted focus on something (like when Malcolm talks about the 10,000-hour rule).
Einstein wasn't a genius because he was most skilled in math -- he wasn't -- Einstein became a genius because he relentlessly explored a problem, following it our farther than anyone had taken it before. This allowed him to see connections that no one had seen before, and these connections/discoveries were valuable to humanity.
So yes, praise kids for their effort -- it's one of the requisite components of genius.
When I was growing up, it seemed ok to be praised for being smart, because life outside of being smart was terrifically difficult. Taking the school bus to school, being bullied, having a weird foreign name, the Canadian winter, those all seemed to promote some resilience, and being smarter than your average bear just seemed to be a light of hope.
> To be effective, researchers have found, praise needs to be specific.
> Just as the research promised, this focused praise helped him see strategies he could apply the next day.
This strongly reminds me of how successful companies experiment to improve their products' performance. These experiments, by definition are trial-and-error, and involve mistakes and backtracking, because they don't yet have enough data to develop a theory that predicts exactly what will work. Over time, as it does become formalized, that aspect is no longer profitable because then anyone can do it.
Also as a related example people confuse memorization with smarts, here in Australia times tables are generally taught up to 12*12, if a kid if very fast at these but falls over once the number goes over 12 they have just put a lot of time into memorization without picking up the principles properly.
It also depends on how strong your kids are. There is no silver bullet
To answer your question, because no matter how smart you are, there will come a time when you HAVE to work extremely hard. If you don't learn this skill early in life, you will suffer simply put.
The message is the culture of effort, and I could not agree more. If you "teach" your kids to optimize their time, for them a test score of 8/10 would be enough if they need to dedicate 5 times less time that they would have to get a 10/10. Eventually this will derive into decreasing more and more the effort and, with it, the results. Knowing when to optimize is also a learned lesson, which comes (again) from effort, failures and success.
I have felt what they describe in the text, and... I wish somebody would have praised my effort back then. If we check most people that have accomplish something in their lives, they have done through effort. Yeah, sure, more variables are needed (you can't run like Usain Bolt or think like Gauss only by effort) but if there is a common characteristic, this is effort.
Truly life-changing opportunities are fairly rare, and they usually pop up when you don't expect them. To capitalize on them, you have to be prepared. If you've been sitting around slacking off for the previous several years, you're probably not going to be in a position to pounce when the opportunity arises.
The only teacher that broke that habit at my school was my Chemistry teacher. He knew I was very smart, and I started handed in the bare minimum of lab reports. For example when he was expecting 6 steps of working and 10 lines of analysis, he got 1 line of working/answer, and two lines of "bloody obvious, X = Y" style analysis :P. He fixed that by shouting "What is this? Hmm? You're a lazy toad!!!" at me in front of the whole class... not very professional, but it worked. He always got the best of my effort. And I think he always marked me down compared to the rest of the class: whilst my work may have been to the same standard as them, it wasn't close to my best work.
In the world of work, the best antidote has been working with other very smart people. To stand out or earn their praise, being smart isn't enough, you have to get things done too. When I was slacking off for 20mins here to check Facebook, and 10mins there to read some news... they knocked out 30mins of code and moved on. Crap!
So I now look for smart people to work for/with, ones who work harder than me, because they inspire me to actually work, not just coast-work-coast through my day.
Here the praise is feedback about actual effort made, not about some abstract concept of how great or smart we are. The abstract raise focuses the mind away from the real world towards an abstraction.
Praise kids for effort put into intellectually challenging work that they complete with good results. We should praise intelligence, it's what our society runs on. Intelligence certainly doesn't need to be devalued any more than it already is.
Because you don't want to tie praise to good results, because that stops people from trying things when they aren't sure if they are going to succeed.
It's an issue of practical psychology and incentives, not a politically correct devaluing of successful people.
I was one of those kids praised for smarts and I attribute that to my innate laziness. I somehow believe that we're missing something when we tell people not to praise being smart. Surely a better way would be to adopt a more rounded approach? But then again, I'm neither a child psychologist nor a parent so what would I know?
I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
No, I don't think that's it. At least for me, I have caught myself thinking many times "I'm not good at X, so odds are I won't be able to be one of the best at X, so it's not worth trying"
(My parents never praised smarts and neither did my teachers, but I unfortunately discovered far too early I could skate by in even the hardest classes with very little effort.)
Another consequence of this upbringing is that learning became a grind for me - pursuing intelligence rather than interest.
I burnt out at the age of 12, and the past 8 years have been trying to find direction and motivation for my academic life.
2) When there's no success yet, recognize effort and praise progress toward the result.
3) Recognize smarts and talent in general for how they help get results.
We should be encouraging, about intelligence, effort and results. But it's important to remember the goal (result), otherwise there's no clear focus.
insert upvotes and a repost to the front page
I think persistence and hard work are very closely related. Will Smith during his interview on PBS once said something like "If you put me in any challenge, no matter how smart you are and I may not have the natural talent but I will practice and work hard till I die or win"
When I got good scores, my dad never told me I was smart but always said "Your hard work is paying off". I guess he did this naturally and did not put any logic or theory behind it but now it all makes sense.
With my kid, I am going to be more aware of what I am going to praise him for and track the changes. Amazing article.