Here’s another rare foray into neuro-parenting. In How to Praise Your Child, I described research that showed telling your child he/she is smart could actually backfire and have negative effects on performance. It turns out there’s another kind of encouragement that can hurt performance rather than improve it.
Group vs. Individual
New research published in Psychological Science shows that telling a child that some groups perform better than others, like saying, “boys are good at this, so you’ll do great” actually hurts their subsequent performance. Perversely, performance dropped for all children – it didn’t matter if they were in the “better” or “worse” group.
Ayn Rand got it right
So what DO you say to boost performance? Don’t talk to the child about differences in specific groups; instead, say that some individuals do better. The study showed this kind of encouragement didn’t hurt the performance of the kids who received it. (And don’t forget to praise effort, not innate talent!)