Praises and the Link to Procrastination

by Eleanor Barber

Contrary to the belief that praising children will improve their self esteem and their want to learn, in some cases it can actually be detrimental to the two aspects and can even lead to children seeing certain praises as a punishment instead.

I recently found out that people who are particularly prone to procrastination are children who grew up either with unusually high expectations put on them  or exhibited talents early on and then after when they started to do average it was met with concern from teachers and parents. These factors can lead to people especially older children, who are still in a learning environment such as teenagers , being very self critical of their work even if they got one of the top marks  because they should have "done better".  "Gifted students" from as early as reception can exhibit signs of low self esteem and persistence after a setback.

The solution  to have adults who are less likely to procrastinate is relatively simple but it starts very early in the persons life, as soon as they start to understand others around them.  The solution is to tell them that they worked hard, not that they did good at the certain things due to their intelligence or their talent.  Intelligence and talent are innate skills, that people have no control over, however with hard work and determination they can become better than people who viewed themselves as being talented in the field. "Gifted children" tend to count their intelligence or talent as a trait and as something they can't change whereas the children praised for effort see intelligence differently and as something that can be improved upon.

Research by Dr Carol Dweck has shown  that when emphasis is placed on effort instead of talent,  it's easier for a child to see mistakes as a learning opportunity, rather than something they will never be good at. Children who were praised for their effort had a more open mindset and were willing to do more challenging work than children praised for their intelligence, who were reluctant to put themselves in situations where they could fail or even simply not be the best in the particular field. "Gifted children" often see failure as the end of the world and have difficulty overcoming failures and continuing with the certain thing they are trying to do, this is due to the fact unlike their peers who were praised for effort they find it hard to see that they can learn from their mistakes so do not try to do things outside of their comfort zone.  The children who were praised for effort liked to compare their results with people who got higher scores so they could learn from their mistakes. This is contrary to the children praised for their intelligence who compared their scores with children who scored lower so that they reassure themselves that they were still good.

This does not necessarily stop in childhood but can carry on until university and even later on in life because adults praised for intelligence do not ask for help because they feel like they are meant to be smart and to know all the answers, so aren't sure what to do when they need help as they didn't like to ask for help as young children.  Although there is no evidence that  "gifted children"  experience more anxiety  and depression disorders they are being particularly prevalent in children and "gifted students" who spend more time inside doing homework due to pressure put on by themselves than outside may be particularly vulnerable due to an increase of social isolation.

In conclusion children who are praised for their hard work instead of their talents tend to do better after a setback, thus being less likely to procrastinate and exhibit less signs of low self esteem than children who were praised for their effort.