Praises that affirm children’s efforts may influence their beliefs about learning. But how does the praise children hear early in life relate to their academic achievement years later? An article recently published in Developmental Psychology explored the relationship between parents’ praise of children aged 1 to 3 years old, the children’s second-grade motivational framework and their fourth-grade academic achievement among 53 children and their caregivers from Chicago.
When the children in the study were 14, 26 and 38 months old, parents’ and children’s daily activities in home were videotaped. Parent praise was then classified into process praise (emphasising children’s effort, strategies and specific actions), person praise (indicating the child had a fixed quality) and other praise (praise that was not clearly person- or process-directed, such as ‘Good’). When the children were in second and third grade, their motivational framework was assessed by asking them about their beliefs in the stability of intelligence, their orientation towards learning goals and their attributions. Math achievement, reading comprehension and reading decoding were assessed in fourth grade.
Gunderson and colleagues found that:
- Process praise accounted for 18% of parent praise across ages, person praise accounted for 16% and other praise accounted for 66%.
- Process praise had a positive indirect effect on fourth-grade reading comprehension and math achievement, through its positive effects on children’s incremental mindsets.
- In addition, further analyses showed that the effect was produced through children’s beliefs about whether traits were malleable or fixed, rather than their preference for challenging versus easy tasks in service of learning goals.
The authors pointed out that these results indicate that the impacts of children’s growth mindset may already exist by second grade, and suggested that intervention studies be conducted to guide parents on how to give process praise.
Source :Gunderson, E. A., Sorhagen, N. S., Gripshover, S. J., Dweck, C. S., Goldin-Meadow, S., & Levine, S. C. (2018). Parent praise to toddlers predicts fourth grade academic achievement via children’s incremental mindsets. Developmental Psychology, 54(3), 397–409.