Telling your kid he's smart is not a smart thing to do

Don't tell a child he is smart. Instead, tell him he is a good learner.

Education Minister Heng Swee Keat pointed out that there is a "right way to praise children" in his speech on Wednesday at the opening of the Primary School Education Seminar and Exhibition.

He cited research which suggested that parents and teachers should think twice about praising children for being "smart" or "talented".

Professor Carol Dweck, a social and developmental psychologist at Stanford University, had found that children who were told they were smart went on to avoid difficult puzzles, and showed more anxiety.

But those praised for their efforts moved on to try harder puzzles, and showed greater confidence when tackling them.

According to Prof Dweck, children labelled "smart" fear that failure could lead to the loss of their status.

This is a point which Haig Girls' principal Constance Loke applies in her school.

When prizes and awards are given to pupils, she said that she is mindful that the focus is not solely on winning.

"When we celebrate students' achievements, we talk about the values they've showed and learnt, like commitment, hard work, discipline and sacrifice," she said.

"I'd ask those in sports and music groups how much time they spent training or practising, and use them as role models for the rest of the school."


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