About nine or ten years ago, my Great-Aunt read a translation of mine (Jacques Réda's "The Letter Scale") and remarked on how talented I was. To my surprise, and especially to hers, I was offended: I had worked for hours and days and weeks on that translation, and I wanted to be praised for my effort, not for my talent.
I thought of that little incident when reading "How Not to Talk to Your Kids," by Po Bronson, which I found a link to on AL Daily. Bronson addresses research by, among others, Carol Dweck:
“Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
In follow-up interviews, Dweck discovered that those who think that innate intelligence is the key to success begin to discount the importance of effort. I am smart, the kids’ reasoning goes; I don’t need to put out effort. Expending effort becomes stigmatized—it’s public proof that you can’t cut it on your natural gifts.
Considering Dweck's emphasis on effort rather than talent, I found it ironic that Bronson quoted someone who said that "Carol Dweck is a flat-out genius."
At the end of the article, Bronson describes his own efforts to apply these ideas to his son:
Eventually, in my final stage of praise withdrawal, I realized that not telling my son he was smart meant I was leaving it up to him to make his own conclusion about his intelligence. Jumping in with praise is like jumping in too soon with the answer to a homework problem—it robs him of the chance to make the deduction himself.