This weekend, I saw my best friend from primary school. She, like me has a daughter. My daughter is almost 7, her daughter is almost 5. She asked me where I stood on telling your child that you are proud of them and where that sat in the Mindset theory.
This is a phrase that doesn't sit entirely comfortably with me but not because I am not proud of my daughter and therein lies the difficulty around this statement. We want to say it because it feels like a form of love and to not say it feels wrong. But, as Dweck said herself of praise - it is not that she is suggesting we don't praise children but we must be mindful of how we do it.
I am thoughtful when I use this phrase with my daughter, simply because I don't want her to get her validation from an external source; I want her to intrinsically want to do things because she is proud of herself and feels good. If she continually hears from external sources how proud they are of her, her motivation to behave in certain ways becomes blurred - is she behaving in a particular way simply to get positive external recognition or because she likes the way it makes her feel intrinsically? The intrinsic motivation is a much more powerful motivator in the long-term.
What I am aiming for is the latter but if she continually hears how proud I am of her with nothing else, it becomes a meaningless form of praise and the Mindset theory doesn't have a lot of good things to say about the praise junkie.
I do want her to know I am proud of her BUT it will always come with a comment intended to allow her to reflect on how her behaviour has made her feel rather than about how it has made someone else feel, such as "How has that made you feel?" or "Does that make you feel proud of yourself?" Her feelings matter and I want her motivation to behave in a certain way to be something she chooses rather than something she does because it makes someone else happy - when that happens, it becomes a performance rather than a genuine act.
In getting children to reflect on their own behaviour and how it makes them feel, we aim to move away from children who turn into adults that rely on praise that gives them external validation. What happens later on when that validation doesn't come? Do we have adults that are not motivated unless they are being praised or have someone telling them how proud they are of them? Learning about Mindset is about creating resilience in small, significant ways and this is one.
We need children to intrinsically be proud of themselves. Telling them you are proud of them is basically another form of praise so I think it is worth thinking about the words said around it. It seems to me that, "I'm proud of you," alone is not enough.