Certain types of parental praise destroys a child’s self-esteem and chances of successful living as an adult.

According to studies performed by Professor Carol Dweck and her colleagues at Stanford University, praising children for fixed qualities foster the development of a fixed mindset in the child. In Dweck’s study children were randomly assigned to IQ problem solving groups. One group was praised for how smart they were; whereas, another group was praised for working hard to solve the presenting problem.

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As it turned out the alleged “smart” kids ended up failing to try anything new because of the fear that they would not live up to their fixed quality of being “smart”. However, the children who were praised for being able to work hard and figure out their problems were willing to take on ever increasingly difficult problems.

Even more interesting was the fact that the allegedly “smart” children tended to lie about their scores because they were embarrassed by their lack of success on the difficult problems. The take away message of this and other studies like it, is that having a “growth” mindset is one key to happiness and success. In the alternative, a “fixed” mindset undermines motivation and promotes fear of failure.

One ten-year-old child in Professor Dweck’s studies epitomized the growth mindset when confronted with a tough problem blurted “I love a challenge!” In your praise of your children and in your modeling of life before them try to emphasize growing from mistakes rather than being afraid of making them. If you have a growth mindset yourself, your model will definitely help your children grow even through the break up of their parents.


About Jim Husen

Dr. Jim Husen, Esq., LMFT, Psy.D. has been practicing Family Law as a licensed attorney in Southern California since 2000. He is also a Licenses Marriage and Family Therapist and holds a doctorate in Clinical Psychology. His book, A Case Study Treating Complex PTSD: One Woman’s Heroic Journey can be found in both softback and e-book format on Amazon and Kindle.