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Stop Praising

Students turn to cheating because they haven’t developed a strategy for handling failure. The problem is compounded when a parent ignores a child’s failures. Parents often continue to praise the intelligence and insists the kid will do better next time.

Michigan scholar Jennifer Crocker studies this exact scenario and explains that the child may come to believe failure is something so terrible; the family can’t acknowledge its existence. A child deprived of the opportunity to discuss mistakes can’t learn from them.

Cloninger has trained rats and mice in mazes to have persistence by carefully notrewarding them when they get to the finish. “The key is intermittent reinforcement,” says Cloninger. The brain has to learn that frustrating spells can be worked through. “A person who grows up getting too frequent rewards will not have persistence because they’ll quit when the rewards disappear.”

No, praise them differently! Recognize the effort, hard work and process. Let’s say every night your child (12-year-old boy) has math homework and is supposed to read a book aloud. Each takes about fifteen minutes if he concentrates, but he’s easily distracted. You should praise him for concentrating without asking to take a break. If he listens to instructions carefully, praise him for that. After soccer games, praise him for looking to pass, rather than just saying, “You played great.” And if he worked hard to get to the ball, raise the effort he applied.