First Class Education and Care is a relational childcare centre in Bethlehem with an emphasis on creative/performing arts. Parents love our peaceful and nurturing toddlers unit. We care for children 6 mths – 5 yrs.
Why You Shouldn’t Label Your Child Clever or Creative
Recent research shows that calling your child creative or clever can do them a genuine disservice.
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but hear me out.
Firstly, I am not saying that we should not praise or encourage children. Of course we should. Children respond to positive reinforcement the way seedlings respond to sunlight – with healthy growth!
However, the way that we encourage them can have a significant impact on how children will next attempt to earn our praise and upon the trajectory of their learning and development.
Research Uncovers Surprising Dynamic
I recently attended a professional development seminar at the University of Waikato where the speaker presented her research on this topic. In one of her experiments she split a group of children into two groups and had them all take a test. She marked the test and gave the results back to the children with feedback.
With the first group she told the children they had done well and praised them for being clever. With the second group she praised the way they had reasoned their way through to the answers.
The Limiting Power of the ‘Clever Label’
Those children who had been praised for the process of their thinking and working were much more likely to want to sit the harder test. They showed an openness to taking risks and a confidence that they had the reasoning power to continue to learn and do well.
Those children who had been labelled clever after sitting the first test, were less likely to want to sit another test.
Calling children ‘clever’ seemed to create a fear that were clever perhaps only in what they had just done. They were more likely to want to repeat what they had been ‘clever at’ than to try something new.
The Limiting Power of the ‘Creative Label’
She told another story about a young girl who created a beautiful painting of flowers. When she presented this to her teachers she was praised for being ‘creative’. That young girl then went on to paint flowers, and only flowers, and could not be persuaded to try something new! Having associated ‘being creative’ with ‘painting flowers’ she is logically repeating what gained her praise in the first place. If her teachers had instead praised her artistic process or the creative choices she was making she would perhaps be more likely to continue to take creative risks.
What Should We Say Instead?
When you next notice your child excelling in something, try praising the way they are processing information or the way they are making interesting connections. Praise the reasoning process – this will give them the confidence to keep using these processes on new problems.
When your child shows you a piece of their art, honour them the way that artists of any age desire to be honoured – by engaging with the artwork itself!
You could say things like: ‘I notice there is a lot of blue in your picture’ or ‘I like way you have used lots of shapes in your drawings.’
You could also praise the creative process by saying things like: ‘You have been thinking about how the shapes fit together in your artwork,’ or by asking, ‘how did you decide which colours to use?’ or ‘what is your favourite part of the painting’?
Putting It Into Practice
Here at First Class Education and Care we have an emphasis on creativity and the performing arts and believe that all children are inherently creative. We are all becoming mindful of our language around creativity in light of this research and are making every effort to praise the process and specifics of creativity in your children, rather than handing out labels.
Feel free to chat to us about this research as we all work together to create a better language of affirmation for our children – one that motivates them always to keep learning and creating.
FIRST CLASS EDUCATION AND CARE
First Class Education and Care is a relational childcare centre in Bethlehem with an emphasis on creative/performing arts. Parents love our peaceful and nurturing toddlers unit. We care for children aged 6 months – 5 years.
When you visit First Class Education and Care you’ll find happy children in a nurturing environment, enjoying genuine relationships with caring teachers who facilitate creative play and quality learning experiences.