How Do You Offer Approval?
By Jeannette Webb
All human beings long for approval. Children especially need it from their parents. However, the way you offer support can make a huge difference in your child’s life.
Carol Dweck, Stanford psychologist, did an interesting study that suggests that the way children perform and the way they feel about themselves is rooted in the way parents offer approval.
In an experiment involving hundreds of early adolescents, Dweck gave students a set of difficult problems from an IQ test. Subsequently, some were praised for their ability “You must be smart at this.” Others were praised for effort, “You must have worked really hard.”
The children who were complimented on being smart were much more likely to turn down the opportunity to do a challenging new task that they could learn from. They were hesitant to do anything that could expose their deficits and call into question their talent.
90% of those who were praised for working hard were eager to take on the difficult new exercise.
We must understand that we do our children a disservice when we allow their identity to be wrapped up in being “the smart one.” In fact, organizations that work with profoundly gifted students have found that they must force gifted kids to do hard things when they are very young to train them to work through the difficulty. If, for example, the child is precocious verbally, but struggles analytically, upper level math is placed in the curriculum at incredibly young ages. They have the IQ to handle it, but it doesn’t come naturally. Because so much is so easy to the profoundly gifted child, they will give up quickly if not trained from an early age to work through the difficulty.
Parents often share with me that their student works diligently on what they enjoy and get discouraged easily on the things they don’t. Whatever the IQ level of your child, you can help them work past that sticking point.
- Praise him for working hard, not for being smart.
- Don’t be dismayed by tears. Cheerfully stay by her side helping her work through a hard thing, maybe helping her look at it a different way.
- Don’t coddle the drama. No tears or whining is allowed. Here’s a statement that can help: “This is your job to accomplish today and I know that you can figure it out.”
- Pray with him (and over him) for diligence and a good attitude. Have your child memorize Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Remind him often of this verse.
Dani Johnson, author of Grooming the Next Generation for Success, tells us that when kids say “I can’t” or “I don’t know how” or “I can’t do it” that they are allowing these excuses to limit their ability.
As a parent, I can use my words to encourage my children’s success. I can praise their hard work and be thankful that ultimately God’s word is more powerful than my word.