Why does one kid jump at the chance to try something new, while another one is petrified?
Why does one kid put in a lot of work, while another just gives up when the going gets tough?
Why does one kid have boundless interest in learning while another is completely resistant to it?
Their beliefs, or their way of thinking, are what ultimately shape their actions and perspectives. Their outlook on life, how they handle challenges, how confident they feel in themselves, and how they view their own skills are all products of the beliefs they hold.
Faith in Education, Faith in Fear
Which beliefs encourage curiosity and exploration, and which ones cause worry and confinement?
Counterintuitively, statements like “I am smart” or “I am talented” or “I am gifted” are more likely to close one off than to open one up. Children who are often praised with phrases like “You are so smart” or “You are so talented” may develop an unhealthy obsession with success and a crippling dread of failure. If they put in a lot of effort to learn something and still fall short, they can conclude that they are not as bright or brilliant as they have been led to believe. They may come to believe that their value is contingent on their intelligence or aptitude, and that they are less than adequate when they fall short.
When youngsters are commended for their EFFORT rather than their ABILITY (see “Mindset” by Dr. Carol Dweck), they come to value themselves more for their receptivity to learning and their efforts toward their goal than for their actual success. These kids find joy in the act of learning itself and find validation in their development and progress rather than in the final product.
Thrilling in Struggle or Totally Result-Oriented?
While children who are not outcome-attached gain self-validation from the process itself, children who are tied to results gain self-validation primarily from the approval of others.
One can tell a world of difference between a child who believes, “The more I work, the smarter I get,” or “The more I practise, the better I get,” and one who believes, “I am smart so I do not have to work hard,” or “I am talented and I can just fall back on my talent.” According to studies, natural ability alone is not sufficient.
It has long been known that with sufficient effort, one can achieve a level of intellectual mastery that is well above the norm.
We are fully aware that the world contains some remarkably bright individuals. We are also well aware that these extraordinary abilities will remain dormant until they are honed via regular, rigorous practise.
Pages 45–46 of The Monk and the Philosopher by Jean-Francois Revel and Matthieu Ricard.
Similarly, we should not hold our kids back by telling them they lack intelligence or talent. A child who tells himself things like, “I am stupid, so why bother putting in any effort?” or “I am not musical, so why bother practising the piano?” will never put in the work necessary to develop.
Promoting a Curious Attitude Towards Knowledge
If we, as parents, grandparents, and educators, praise children for their effort rather than their ability or accomplishments, we might encourage them to be more receptive to new information and ideas. Much more effective than “Wow, you are so smart!” or “Wow, you are so talented!” are statements like “Wow, I can really see how hard you have worked on this!”
It is great to see kids that are interested in learning and eager to take in new information. Children who are motivated by their own desires and who derive satisfaction and value from their accomplishments are a joy to behold. Let us encourage this trait by showing kids they can improve their IQ and other skills through hard work and dedication.