Parents are inundated with advice from the time the second blue line appears on the pregnancy test, but even with all this knowledge, we don’t seem to be raising the happy, independent children one would expect from so much expert attention.
Madeline Levine, a twenty-five-year veteran of clinical work with children, has observed that the most motivated and confident children appear to be the result of the “authoritative” parenting style.
In a typical experiment, Dr. [Carol] Dweck [of Stanford University] takes young children into a room and asks them to solve a simple puzzle. Most do so with little difficulty. But then Dr. Dweck tells some, but not all, of the kids how very bright and capable they are. As it turns out, the children who are not told they’re smart are more motivated to tackle increasingly difficult puzzles. They also exhibit higher levels of confidence and show greater overall progress in puzzle-solving.
This may seem counterintuitive, but praising children’s talents and abilities seems to rattle their confidence. Tackling more difficult puzzles carries the risk of losing one’s status as “smart” and deprives kids of the thrill of choosing to work simply for its own sake, regardless of outcomes. Dr. Dweck’s work aligns nicely with that of Dr. [Diana] Baumrind [of the University of California, Berkeley], who also found that reasonably supporting a child’s autonomy and limiting interference results in better academic and emotional outcomes.
We know this just adds more fuel to the fire, so to speak, but it is food for thought.
Just think how nice it would be not to have to write college essays, again.
Finding the parenting “sweet spot.”
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