Pygmalion and Praise

After instructing my kiddo or giving him feedback, I often find myself questioning if I’m helping or hurting him. Did I give him too much praise for something that should be considered elementary? Am I setting the bar too low or too high for him? I suspect that this kind of second-guessing is quite common among parents and is our own internal feedback loop, there only to improve our own parenting skills. 

Higher expectations lead to higher results. We know this due to many studies proving it. This rule (also known as the Pygmalion or Rosenthal effect) has become a social rule as well, dispersed by media and household idioms. “There is no try, only do”. “The early bird gets the worm”. This thinking has led us to falsely believe that our children’s success or failure is entirely dependent on how hard we push them. 

We know that isn’t all true. We’ve met the person who was highly motivated and exceptional in college then hit a wall afterwards (or during)

I also feel that parents must constantly walk the line between praise of low-bar tasks and expectation-setting of high-bar tasks. 

One thought on “Pygmalion and Praise

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  1. The latest wisdom I’ve read is that you’re supposed to praise the kid hard work and persistence, not for being “smart”. The idea is that if the kid thinks success comes from being smart, he’ll avoid doing things at which he might fail (becaues failure would be evidence that he’s not smart). If success comes from hard work, then failure is just a sign you didn’t work hard enough. There’s a book called “Nurture Shock” that summarizes all that stuff.

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