Dear Mom, stop telling me I'm smart. Love, Johnny

(World Magazine, July 19)  aw_selfesteem1.jpgThe Self Esteem Movement is as old as John Dewey (and just about as useful), and one of its subdivisions, the Praise Your Kids All the Time Movement, has just taken a hit, according to New York Magazine.

According to a survey conducted by Columbia University, 85 percent of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart. In and around the New York area, according to my own (admittedly nonscientific) poll, the number is more like 100 percent. Everyone does it, habitually. The constant praise is meant to be an angel on the shoulder, ensuring that children do not sell their talents short.

But a fascinating recent study (for all those who teach, homeschool, have children, or want to) says that telling children they're smart leads often to apathy, while telling them they worked hard leads to eventual triumph. For kids, Smart is innate and unmalleable, but Effort is controllable. Give them the perception of control, and they will begin to exercise more of it.There's a lot about cheating here, too:

Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures and insists he’ll do better next time. Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker studies this exact scenario and explains that the child may come to believe failure is something so terrible, the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.

So, what do you think?  Do you agree or disagree? 

(HT: World Mag)