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The Secret to Raising Smart Kids

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the the-most-smartest dept.

Education 614

Hugh Pickens writes "Scientific American has an interesting article on the secret to raising smart kids that says that more than 30 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings. In particular, attributing poor performance to a lack of ability depresses motivation more than does the belief that lack of effort is to blame. One theory of what separates the two general classes of learners, helpless versus mastery-oriented, is that these different types of students not only explain their failures differently, but they also hold different "theories" of intelligence. The helpless ones believe that intelligence is a fixed trait: you have only a certain amount. Mistakes crack their self-confidence because they attribute errors to a lack of ability, which they feel powerless to change. Mastery-oriented children think intelligence is malleable and can be developed through education and hard work. Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating offering opportunities to learn."

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614 comments

scool (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516675)

so duz this meen i cin git more smartz or will i allays be like dis ? i don unnerstand.

Re:scool (0, Troll)

innnnate! (1195915) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516773)

Huked on fonix reely wurkz for me, too!

Re:scool (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517347)

I prefer Hooked on Monkey Phonics [wikimedia.org] .

In other words... (0)

Mikkeles (698461) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516683)

Consistently telling a kid that (s)he is stupid will cause the kid to believe he is stupid. Wow! such insight!

By definition... (1)

raehl (609729) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516817)

If a dumb kid were to decide to work towards being smarter, he wouldn't be a dumb kid anymore, would he?

I think you missed the point. (5, Informative)

darkvizier (703808) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516861)

The article is saying that consistently telling a child that they are 'smart' will lead them to be stupid. The belief that this is some built in, static attribute causes them to stop making efforts to improve.

Re:I think you missed the point. (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517343)

The article is saying that consistently telling a child that they are 'smart' will lead them to be stupid.

They constantly told me I was smart, and it never made me stupid. Oh wait...

Mental Disabilities (1)

tritonman (998572) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516873)

I wonder if this study takes into account mental disabilities and the restrictions imposed by it?

Re:Mental Disabilities (4, Insightful)

Stooshie (993666) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516975)

RTFA. It's not about mental ability. It's about how open children are to changing their abilities.

Children with mental disabilities can find ways around it if they have had the sort of upbringing/education that has told them they can. If they have been told that their mental ability/disability is fixed then they won't.

Re:Mental Disabilities (3, Interesting)

oliverthered (187439) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517339)

what utter crap.

I can't spell for shit, have poor grammar, have never been able to learn another language despite huge amounts of effort I've put in (Learning a different language is an attempt to improve my skills in my native language) and my writing looks like a horrible mess. In short despite all my efforts I am still unable to do these things and I am the last person that you would expect not to try in as many ways possible to overcome these problems.
Anyone that says otherwise it talking crap because 'everybody must be equal', if there not talking crap they can try to sort me out and prove me otherwise, I doubt I will have any takers.

Re:Mental Disabilities (1)

paganizer (566360) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517027)

Heretic!
The New Truth(tm) tells us that all are equal; anyone can be as good at Theoretical Physics as Einstein, Play a Guitar like Hendrix, or paint a masterpiece, just so long as they try hard enough! If they can't, it's their parents, school, societies (etc) fault.

Although We currently have a shining example in the whitehouse that you do not have to be "smart" or "have a high IQ" to be President, there are still icons of Old Thought that need to be taken down; the next time you hear a so-called "Gifted Musician" playing music, tell all those around you that 'anyone could play that good, if they had that equipment and practiced"; the next time someone is waxing poetical about a...well, a poet... loudly tell your children "I could write that sort of thing if I hadn't decided to be a car salesman instead!".

Re:Mental Disabilities (1)

polar red (215081) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517159)

That isn't such a problem as you describe it ... it would mean that particular artist has had the motivation and persistance to BECOME that good, and NOT : that artist was lucky to have "good genes". I think the former is more apploudable than the latter.

Re:Mental Disabilities (2, Informative)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517167)

I think you are thinking of this story: http://instruct.westvalley.edu/lafave/hb.html [westvalley.edu] Harrison Bergeron

Its the only one I like by Vonnegut.

You fail it. (5, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516937)

Consistently telling a kid that (s)he is stupid will cause the kid to believe he is stupid. Wow! such insight!

Wrong-o. Consistently telling a kid that successes are due to being smart will cause them to believe the opposite as well - namely, that failures are due to *not* being smart. On the other hand, telling a kid that successes are due to hard work will lead them to believe that failure can be turned around through diligence.

Read it slower next time.

Re:You fail it. (4, Insightful)

canUbeleiveIT (787307) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517071)

It's no surprise that people here would fail to understand the basic premise of the article--this is slashdot, home of the "I'm the smartest; no, I'm the smartest" pissing contests.

Many of us here are the people described in the article, and we hold "being smart" as the highest possible attribute. We worship "smart" here. Ironically, of course, since one can't claim any more honor from being born smart than from being born handsome or good at sports, traits that are scorned here.

Re:You fail it. (5, Interesting)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517163)

Many of us here are the people described in the article, and we hold "being smart" as the highest possible attribute. We worship "smart" here. Ironically, of course, since one can't claim any more honor from being born smart than from being born handsome or good at sports, traits that are scorned here.

Well, that's the focus of the article, isn't it? I totally agree with you, by the way - there's nothing to be proud of in relying on abliity alone to outperform the less talented if you're still underachieving.

I was certainly one of the ones that got the 'wow, that kid's smart' a lot. Probably more in school than from my parents, who emphasized work over talent. And I was an underachiever (relatively) until I realized how shameful it was that I was getting grades without any effort that my friends had to work their asses off for. And some of them resented it. I came to realize that a great deal of unused talent isn't something to be proud of; it's something to be ashamed of, if anything.

I've got kids now, and they're young, but they seem pretty sharp. And while I'll never tell them that they're dumb, praise comes through recognition of hard work - not talent.

Re:You fail it. (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517191)

Knowing obscure code makes one a geek. I'm not sure, but I think only geeks think that makes them smart.

Your boss called (1)

Bloke down the pub (861787) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516967)

On the other hand, consistently telling a kid he's a genius when in fact he's a bit of a tard will just make him into an arrogant tard.

Now get back to work!

parents... (1)

u235meltdown (940099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516685)

Interestingly TFA allows me to blame part of my high school gradual failure on my parents... but since I'm in college anyway, I guess not.

Chemicals (5, Funny)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516689)

The early intake of PCB's seems to have made me [NO CARRIER]

Re:Chemicals (1)

NeilTheStupidHead (963719) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516791)

Why would you even want to eat printed circuit boards?

Re:Chemicals (2, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516893)

To ingest the powerful spirits living in the chips and become one with them.
Was this a rhetorical question, or are you just living up to your nick? ;)

Re:Chemicals (1)

ByOhTek (1181381) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517095)

Same reason we eat lead paint chips! They go good with hot bean dip.

I know, I know, you are supposed to eat corn chips with hot bean dip, but lead paint chips are so much yummier! /drools and bangs head into wall for no reason

People are different (3, Insightful)

yada21 (1042762) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516697)

People are different. film at 11.

Re:People are different (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516713)

Sentences are capitalized. Remedial English at 12.

Re:Re:People are different (4, Funny)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516931)

Marxists reject das capitalization. Remedial timekeeping at 13.

Re:Re:People are different (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517381)

Marxists reject das capitalization

Groucho or Harpo?

Tried & Tested (4, Funny)

CmdrGravy (645153) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516709)

Keep young children in the walled garden, those that survive and escape can be schooled those that don't are no longer a drain on my resources.

Re:Tried & Tested (4, Funny)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516771)

Yeah - make it like the Truman show, but with more gorillas and crocodiles!

Re:Tried & Tested (1)

rasputin465 (1032646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517127)

Yeah - make it like the Truman show, but with more gorillas and crocodiles!

And blackjack. And hookers. In fact, forget the gorillas and crocodiles!

Implicit Critique (5, Interesting)

epistemiclife (1101021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516711)

This is unsurprising, and should probably be patently obvious to anyone who has ever worked with children. This is why it's destructive to classify people based on some perceived innate intelligence or lack thereof. Certainly, there are some people who are especially gifted in one or many areas, for whatever reason, and some who are predisposed to be remedial in those same areas. However, it is irresponsible to draw conclusions based on fleeting performance statistics. This actually reminds me of another study which showed that girls who took an exam after having read an article about how women are supposedly intellectually inferior scored worse on the exam.

This is also an implicit critique for those in certain fields of biology, who, unwilling to question their genetic reductionistic assumptions, continuously attempt to explain everything about humanity in terms of genetics or selection pressure, as though their particular field exists within an epistemological vacuum.

Re:Implicit Critique (3, Interesting)

somersault (912633) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516815)

Yep, most psychological studies just seem to state the obvious. And again this is just rehashing the nature vs nurture debate. As you have correctly pointed out, both have a part to play. Yes, some people really are 'smarter' or more naturally apt when it comes to some things, but all humans have the ability to learn, if they make the effort. I was trying to classify myself in one of these 2 groups - I know I suck at some things, like football (of the soccer variety), but when it comes to intellectual pursuits, I'm well aware that I can do anything I want to do (though strangely I regard that as because I think I have good natural abilities for learning, rather than because I put a lot of effort in.. doesn't really conform to the views in the summary..)

Re:Implicit Critique (5, Interesting)

porcupine8 (816071) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517303)

Yep, most psychological studies just seem to state the obvious.

There have actually been studies showing that when shown the results of a psychological experiment, most people think the results were obvious. And yet - when people are asked to predict the results of those same experiments, they're no better at it than chance. Hindsight is 20/20.

Re:Implicit Critique (1)

BarryJacobsen (526926) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517361)

It still conforms to the article/summary, you just had an easier time learning how to learn - anyone can still learn how to learn if they take the time to learn it.

Stupidity (1)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516915)

"This is also an implicit critique for those in certain fields of biology, who, unwilling to question their genetic reductionistic assumptions, continuously attempt to explain everything about humanity in terms of genetics or selection pressure, as though their particular field exists within an epistemological vacuum."

No, it is not. Insofar as any discipline is actually scientific to some degree, they should follow the data, and should not focus on what would happen if their findings would be bastardized by some semi-trained K-12 educator. What makes people happy and productive and what is actually empirically true is not necessarily identical.

Re:Stupidity (1)

epistemiclife (1101021) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517067)

I'm not sure what "scientific to some degree" here means, because leaving out just one part of the scientific method can have disastrous results. (There are even some rather interesting philosophical arguments for why we should be skeptical of any result that can be observed). The point of my comment is unrelated to what makes people happy; it is with regard to what is actually true. The fact of the matter is that empiricism is inherently error-prone, especially with regard to complex phenomena such as human intelligence and behavior. As a result, I believe it is irresponsible for certain people in certain fields to assert, frankly, that correlation implies causation, but only within their field.

Short comments: (1, Insightful)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517241)

-Philosophy is more or less useless, and always has been. I hold it in roughly the same regard as theology. (Except some British philosophy of science, of course.)

-The rest of your post consists of a mix of gibberish and truism. Empiricism is indeed error-prone. But it sure beats the options - such as wishful thinking, ideology and religion (not to mention philosophy).

-Correlation often implies causation. What's your point? Who exactly are you referring to?

morons (0)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516715)

Okay let's see...I typed badly spelled sentences on a typwriter when i was 2 3/4 years old, potty trained myself, learned to talk and walk earlier than most kids, and grew up to be really smart. I'm gonna have to vote for "have genes that make you smart" as the answer to raising smart kids. Oh and eating fish lol.

Re:morons (1)

jimbolauski (882977) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516763)

The real question to determine if slow kids can make them selves smart is; are there any glue eaters that became members of Mensa.

Re:morons (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516957)

Love the derivation in your sig. Quite topical.

Re:morons (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517225)

Hey, I used to eat glue, you insensitive clod!

Re:morons (1)

nicklikesfire (720684) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517079)

...and yet, despite your superior intelligence, you cannot seem to type a cohesive sentence to brag about it.

Re:morons (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517325)

Who let you have that typewriter? Who didn't freak out and put you in a walker because you were more mobile than they expected?

Your parents played a bigger role than you give them credit for, even if it was just by not treating you like most parents treat their kids. Not that their genes didn't help, but on the basis that they were smart (even if just in how to raise a kid) you turned out smart.

It's a vicious cycle. Dumb parents who can't raise kids or expect the schools to do it raise dumb kids, who become dumb parents who...

While I think genes had a big part I'm sure there's a reason that my grandma (With a masters degree) raised 3 doctors, 1 engineer, 1 nurse, 2 CPAs and two more college graduates. Who then went on to raise 4 engineers, 2 doctors, 1 pharmacist, 1 cpa, 1 film editor and 2 more high schoolers.

The secret to smart kids?? easy... (4, Insightful)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516717)

Smart parents that take the time to educate their kids as well as spending time with them.

example? sure. My daughter can code html very well. I sat down for a few months and showed her how to get going and now she sells myspace templates for $15.00 each to kids at school. She also understands how a car works because I made her come out and help when I was working on the car or my project hotrod. Explaining things to her and answering all her questions. She also can use a GPS (real one not these fluffy naigation toys) as we are always geocacheing every sunday. One year we went geocacheing without a GPS, only topo maps and a compass. she loved the "low tech" approach. She is one of these Abercrombie wearing socks and flipflops in the winter stylish cheerleader types. yet she get's her hands dirty, can change a distributor as good as any certified mechanic and knows when to set aside prissy for fun and work.

She can do things that 99% of her friends can't. she has a higher automotive education than most girls, etc...

THAT is the solution. School will not teach your kids, you have to. Sadly most parents today do not want to bother with teaching their kids.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516793)

Yea, I know, grammar nazi, etc...
but calling yourself a smart parent when you spell "gets" as "get's" is rather ironic.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (4, Interesting)

Red Flayer (890720) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516799)

I think you may have missed the point of the article. It's quite possible to take the time to teach your kids, but have it blow up in your face because the methods of teaching are not optimal.

You seem to have done a great job making sure your daughter is open to traditionally gender-inappropriate areas of interest, and to have challenged her and stimulated her in positive ways. Often, though, parents will say, "C'mon, you're smarter than that" or something similar when their child fails. As failures mount (and they will, learning is a process that requires failure), the child begins to believe that they really aren't that smart, and that a lack of intelligence is why they fail.

What I've taken from the article is that a better way to handle that would be to say, "C'mon, let's figure out how you can be smarter about that problem next time." This implies that intelligence is malleable and trainable.

How have you handled your daughter's failures?

/For the record, I've been doing a lot of reading on the subject lately, as I'm a fairly new father of a girl -- and I'm always looking for insight.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (4, Interesting)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517023)

How? ok I have a great example....

I asked her to change the manual transmission oil on my Sidekick sport, no instruction at all just a command and acted like I was doing something.

when she opened the book and crawled under the car with a breaker bar to remove the oil drain plug I almost snickered... I let her get covered in old 90 weight oil, I then quietly slid the oil pan under for her and said, "need this?" she cleaned up the mess and finished the job and I said " good job! Mistakes make you better at what you do."

Expect kids to make mistakes and praise them for making them.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (0, Flamebait)

teknopurge (199509) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517389)

Expect kids to make mistakes and praise them for making them.
Especially when they take guns and other weapons to school.

At what point is enough enough? At what point do we stop covering things in foam?

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517215)

Very interesting. I stumbled onto the incremental learning approach, pretty much by accident. My father was a high-pressure parent, always in search of better grades. Nothing short of straight-A across the board was really satisfactory. By the time I was in high school, I built a system to print counterfeit report cards -- end of problem. This was back in the early 80's, so it was considered beyond the capabilities of home computers. I proved otherwise.

With my own daughter, I watch her grades but without pressure. If she gets a mediocre grade in a subject that she hates (usually because she has to work at it), I try to make the subject a little more interesting and encourage her to try and bump her next grade by a half a letter. "Science is boring? No way! At work, we boil Santa's elves in nitric acid so we can test them for lead! You need science in order to boil the elves and see if they are safe for kids!"

Unlike one of the other posts, I have been deficient in teaching my daughter the art of automotive maintenance. She is 10 now, so I will start with the basics of checking oil and tire changing.

On the other hand, she has awesome language skills, and has become a huge sports fan. She could easily become a sportswriter. I might encourage her to write a book on Lulu.com or try a little blogging on sports websites.

Another piece of the puzzle is how the other kids in the neighborhood are being raised. Parenting is a team sport. If the kids next door are allowed to slide through school unchallenged, that problem finds its way into your house eventually. School systems try to adapt to substandard parenting by slowing everyone else down so that the average kid can pass. Parents can raise the average with positive motivation. People try to choose a town with "good schools", but in reality they are looking for a town with parents who take the time to get involved and pay attention to their kids.

mod PARENT up. (1)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516801)

Mod PARENT up. We need more like you. Good job on doing the ONE THING that I think does more to raise good (and smart) kids...spend time with them, show them that you love them, tell them they're worth something, tell them you love them. It worked on my brother and me (so much so that we kinda have superiority complexes).

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516827)

Pictures (of teenage girl cheerleader working on car) or it didn't happen.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (2, Interesting)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516945)

It's true that you need to spend time with your children to educate them, but you need to have a balance. You also don't want to be one of those control freak parents standing behind them at the spelling bee going "eyes on the prize!"

Basically, I think the important things are to spend quality time with your kids. If they show interest in a particular area of study, skill or art, encourage them by providing what they need to pursue that. Kids with a keen interest in intellectual pursuits you might want to take them to the library, purchase books on their area of interest, or buy them needed equipment, like, a microscope for the aspiring biologist or a telescope for the aspiring astronomer. Take trips to places that will pique their curiosity -- and remember, children curious.

Because they're so curious, you want to try to answer their questions -- or, better yet, show them how to answer their own questions when appropriate. Show them all of the resources available to them -- Internet, books, the library, videos on the subject, software maybe. And, if you yourself have plenty of knowledge in the area they are interested in, teach them what you know about it.

The real answer is to just be supportive. You can't push them to hard, and you can't be an absentee parent. Bear in mind that children have different styles of learning and might need different approaches. Some will take time to learn, others will learn very quickly. That's really the best advice I can give anyone.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (4, Insightful)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516973)

Problem with most kids is, who is going to be their teacher?

My parents did pass on most life skills to me: cooking, cleaning, leatherworking (Dad's hobby), writing a check (my mom would let me fill out her checks when I was young), sewing, etc. But most parents can't even do this right now. One weekend I went back home I heard that the Home Ec teacher's daughter was Paying people to do her laundry at college because she didn't know how.

There is a good deal I picked up on my own or in Boy Scouts. Auto repair is a huge one. My parents didn't touch cars, even for oil changes. It took me my first car and my first oil change to replacing turbos and heads.

I'm with you. I can't wait to be a parent because in my mind, I get to duplicate all my knowledge that took me years to compile to someone who can pick it up in a short time.

I hate to say it but look around you. Look at your peers. I'm not talking about slashdot. I'm talking about a majority of America (from what I've seen). Do they really care what their kids know? Heck I can think of a dozen kids that their parents didn't plan on them (in Highschool). These people don't even have the life skills themselves, some barely passed highschool (if they ever did). What are they supposed to pass on to their kids? Plus most think it's the school's job. Heck most think that parenting is the school's job.

IMHO most of it's come from treating kids like people that must be protected instead of little learning machines. I've spent a fair amount of time around kids (cousins) and nothing is more annoying than when adults talk to them like kids. I've held fairly decent conversations with 4-5 year olds and they full understand what I'm saying without a cute voice and broken English. 200 years ago these kids were helping to hunt and garden. Most people would flip a lid if you wanted to put a gun in a 5 year olds hands. I bet that if you took a 15 year old from 1850 and a 15 year old from 2007 and dropped them alone *in their own environment* the 1850er could probably find his own food, cook his own meal, etc. Unless it was made out of plastic the 15 year old probably wouldn't know how to use money. Unless there was a microwave I bet most wouldn't even know how to make food. I had a friend in college whose stay at home mom always did everything for her. She burned Macaroni, who knew you needed water. You can't just dump it in a pot and turn on the heat.

Except my daughters are going to learn PHP9 none of that HTML Fluff. But thanks again for being the parent you are and I only wish that we had more people like you out there. Proof again that we shouldn't need a license to drive, but a license to have kids.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (2, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517007)

More to the point, you've nurtured her inquisitiveness.
Inquisitiveness is the derivative of "figuring stuff out".
Guess that's why I hate GUIs so much; looking at icons all day sometimes seems like the antithesis of grasping the fundamental ideas and letting them dynamically unfold within the mind.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517041)

Raising your daughter to have strong nerd skills dosn't make her smart.

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517115)

Sorry, hit the submit button too quickly. You are doing a great thing with your daughter, I just meant to say that just because you value technical skills liked coding .html and engineering (fixing the car), doesn't automatically mean your daughter is gifted/talented/etc. How's her writing? How about her knowledge of the humanities or perhaps a foreign language or music? I've always felt the smartest people span multiple skillsets and defy classification. Show me a programmer who can also do graphic design (or vice-versa) and I'll say, "where did they find that guy/girl?".

Re:The secret to smart kids?? easy... (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517349)

True, but gifts/talents will only take you so far, and in a lot of cases, will limit you.

First, the whole point of the article is that there's nothing 'innate.' I myself am 'gifted.' That changes my starting position. It doesn't change my possible ending position, compared to a 'non-gifted' person. Or somebody who's gifted elsewhere.

That having been said, grow up with everybody telling you that if you fail at something, you're not living up to your potential', rather than 'need to try harder,' you start to think that any failure is a direct personal lack of ability, and lack of posability, rather than simply being a lack of practice, skill, or training.

Similarly, the 'gifted' person who can more or less coast to a certain level, then has to buckle down and actually work at it, same as everybody else, is truely buggered compared to the 'non-gifted' guy who had to buckle down and actually work at it from the get-go, and therefore *knows how buckle down and actually work at it.*

I am so smart! S-M-R-T (4, Interesting)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516719)

But you can over encourage your children and get them to not apply themselves. I've seen it happen...

If you allow your awareness to lapse and fade, you will become a victim of your own overconfidence. - the book of five rings

Uh-oh, the ground is trembling, (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516729)

Small mammals are scurrying for cover,
All the birds have taken wing.

The hordes of self-proclaimed geniuses who wander the halls of Slashdot approach.

This is a secret? (4, Interesting)

PIPBoy3000 (619296) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516733)

Sure, having innate gifts helps, but it doesn't do any good if you don't show up and get things done. That's why doing homework is part of my kids' nightly routine. It's also why being borderline obsessive/compulsive tends to get you ahead academically and in many work environments. Of course, it means tearing my kids away from their current project for dinner time is occasionally an epic battle. I tell my son that our ability to intensely focus on things is our family's superpower, and should be used for good and not evil.

The other thing I've seen research on is that praising kids in general ways such as "you're smart" isn't very helpful. Being specific with your praise, such as "you've got a good memory and learn spelling words well" is more effectively motivating.

Ignorance as Opportunity? (4, Insightful)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516781)

An engineer I knew had a stock reply to "can you do ___?" questions. He would say, "I have never tried it."

It could be scuba diving, or building a house, making cookies, or solving fractal matthematics, but the answer was always "I've never tried it."

This is why you must allow your children to fail (5, Insightful)

raddan (519638) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516797)

The danger is not that your children will fail, and have permanently damaged egos-- the danger is that your child will never experience failure, and thus learn the important skill of picking up the pieces and moving on. Parents naturally want to save their children from the suffering that comes from defeat (e.g., the track race on field day, the art competition, spelling bee, science fair, etc.), but this is an important experience, and one that they will eventually have, regardless of how much parents shelter them. I would much rather have my child feel crushed because he lost the Boy Scout knot-tying competition than have his first failure be at that new job out of college. The young adult who knows ego management will be in a much better position to dust himself off and carry on than the college grad who takes failure as a sign of permanent inability.

Last night's On Point [onpointradio.org] featured Tom Perkins, the venture capitalist who funded Netscape, Google, AOL, and so on, and he said something that struck me-- he said that he has failed often, but that his successes outnumber his failures. He also said that his firm has a reputation of betting on the entrepeneur who has failed once before. The entrepeneur who fails, learns from it, and tries again is the kind of guy he wants to invest in.

Re:This is why you must allow your children to fai (4, Insightful)

goldspider (445116) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516961)

That's why the trend towards things like "noncompetetive sports" for kids drives me up a wall.

The theory, apparently, is that if you don't keep score, the little snowflakes won't get their feelings hurt by losing.

That's not to say that winning is everything; in fact I think kids can learn more about hard work and perseverance from losing.

Just wait until these kids start applying for colleges and jobs, unaware that reality deals harshly with those unprepared to earn their place in the world.

Re:This is why you must allow your children to fai (1)

smussman (1160103) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517129)

And just because you aren't keeping score, does that mean the kids aren't?
In younger days, I played in a basketball league where the scoreboard was reset each quarter, so no one would be keeping track of who won the game. I know I and many other kids would have our parents sum the quarter scores so we knew who "really" won.

Re:This is why you must allow your children to fai (1)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516965)

The danger is not that your children will fail, and have permanently damaged egos-- the danger is that your child will never experience failure, and thus learn the important skill of picking up the pieces and moving on.

Excellent point. If you are scoring 100% of your shots, the game is too easy.

Re:This is why you must allow your children to fai (1)

SuiteSisterMary (123932) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517295)

Last night's On Point featured Tom Perkins, the venture capitalist who funded Netscape, Google, AOL, and so on, and he said something that struck me-- he said that he has failed often, but that his successes outnumber his failures. He also said that his firm has a reputation of betting on the entrepeneur who has failed once before. The entrepeneur who fails, learns from it, and tries again is the kind of guy he wants to invest in.

I remember reading an article on Ted Turner that said something like 'He makes a point, in meetings, to throw ideas out there. Ten, twenty, fifty, and most of them are abysmally stupid. But generally, discussing the stupid ones leads to the good ones. And nobody ever remembers the 49 stupid ideas; they remember the one good one.'

genetics (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516803)

I recently read a bio written about my g-g-grandfather, whom i never met. The bio was written in 1923, and describes a man that "is never idle and believes in improving the mind. He is first, last and all the time a student, particularly along literary and historical line and in natural history and scientific subjects."

I would hope that my bio says something like that at some point, but at the very least it appears that his interests and tenacity to learn may have been passed down, since he and I were raised in completely different conditions by very different parents/parenting styles."

Re:genetics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517273)

I've already modded in this thread so I have to post this anonymously, but I find it ironic that you should post the quote you did when the quote of the day on my site is:

Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous mind. - Samuel Johnson

Re:genetics (1)

joebutton (788717) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517367)

> I recently read a bio written about my g-g-grandfather

That's a pretty bad stammer you have there

classifying (1)

jovius (974690) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516837)

Still, without (largely) any theoretical knowledge about the intelligence the human race has evolved to the present state. If there was a two-class system it would have had wider cultural differences already. The spectrum is much more wider.

Re:classifying (1)

Eddi3 (1046882) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517143)

Much more wider, indeed.

Simple (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516847)

Kill the failures, look at finland!

Two opposites, similar result... (2, Interesting)

Notquitecajun (1073646) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516851)

My brother and I are both smart in different ways. I'm more able to apply myself to jobs I don't enjoy doing, and accomplish them, but he's got more IQ and is better at what he enjoys. I did better in high school and college because of it (and I don't have his personal issues), but he's at his dream job and is very good at what he does. I still haven't quite figured it out yet.

Both of our parents pressed us to be smart and good at our studies when we were younger, read to us and with us early, and did their best to help us do what we wanted to do.

hard work - prodigies, eg Tiger Woods (5, Insightful)

wrigglywrollypolary (1190483) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516863)

Scientific American ran some articles last year on child prodigies and expert minds (eg, Expert Mind [sciam.com] ). The general idea was that child prodigies are not necessarily ``smarter'' than their peers. Instead, they are so passionate about a particular task that they practice significantly more than their peers. That is, hard work accounts for a lot. Being slightly gifted at some task and doing well can be more encouraging than failing, but that just gets the ball rolling. For example, Tiger Woods played hours of golf--he would practically beg his parents to take him out to play.

People aren't born knowing chess openings or golf swings. Helping children find activities that really interest them can be hugely rewarding-- not because they should become child prodigies, but because then the process itself is satisfying, too.

Re:hard work - prodigies, eg Tiger Woods (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517155)

But Tiger Woods was born with that long lean torso that allows him to have the great golf swing that he does. Had he been 5'6" and round-ish, he wouldn't be a pro-golfer. He'd be a hopeless romantic, dreaming of making the PGA one day.

Re:hard work - prodigies, eg Tiger Woods (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517257)

Keep this in mind also. I don't know where I got it from.

Amateur athletes practice until they get it right.
Professional athletes practice until they don't get it wrong.

Students NEED challenge! Schools don't challenge! (4, Insightful)

Tsu Dho Nimh (663417) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516871)

It doesn't help those who are fast learners to sail through anything, yet the American educational system ignores the so-called "gifted", or just piles on more homework instead of making things challenging.

The result, children like the Jonathan of the article. They crumple at the first difficulty and never recover.

I don't think the bulldozer parents, those who shove all obstacles out of their children's way, help either.

Mixture (1)

ilovegeorgebush (923173) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516881)

I tend to think both theories of intelligence are true. To me, all people have a level of natural intelligence, that can be both improved and extended through hard work and challenging the brain.

What might be interesting to know is the affect trauma, abuse or bad upbringing may have on 'natural intelligence'. I don't think the article covers this.

Education system disconnect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516891)

It's all well and good to talk about how failure is an opportunity, but educations systems one and all are predicated on success, and only success. You want to get into a top university? Want to get a scholarship? Hope you have as close to a 4.0 as possible. Want to go on to grad school? Want to get grants? Hope you have as close to a 4.0 as possible, and the right score on your GREs.

This is an emphasis on results, not process. No one is interested in how much you learned from that class you got a B- in, all they care about is that it looks bad on your transcript when you are being compared with the guy who got the A+. So long as this is the case, no matter how accurate Dweck's theories about mastery vs. performance theories of intelligence orientation, students will have no choice but to act as if performance is the paramount consideration.

Article makes sense to me (5, Informative)

Selanit (192811) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516941)

The basic point of the article is:

1) Intelligence is not a fixed, immutable property.
2) People who believe it IS fixed and immutable tend to avoid intellectual challenges.
3) People who avoid intellectual challenges learn less, and more slowly than people who seek them out.

Therefore, in order to raise smart children, we should:

1) Teach them that intelligence can be increased. (E.g., "Einstein was a great mathematician because he worked really hard at it for a long time" rather than "Einstein was a born genius.")
2) Assign responsibility to effort rather than innate ability. (This works both ways; if the child does well on an assignment, you can say "That's a good job." But if they do poorly, you can say "You didn't put in enough effort." Either way, the problem is with the child's actions, not with the child's identity.)

This makes a great deal of sense to me. I have observed that I learn more from trying things that are hard than from repeating things I find easy. I think the same thing probably applies to other people; so in order to encourage learning, we should encourage people to believe that it's a good idea to try out things that are hard to do and see mistakes as opportunities to learn.

Correction (4, Interesting)

Dobeln (853794) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517197)

The article never really states that intelligence is terribly malleable. This is more of a general impression left with the reader - which is mostly incorrect. The article mainly states that it is preferable that children hold a more rose-tinted view of the nature of intelligence, as that tends to make them less prone to fatalism and more prone to work hard. Sort of like how a belief in Santa can make kids behave better.

Re:Article makes sense to me (2, Funny)

techpawn (969834) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517217)

That's why every 4 levels you can bump your int score right?

True that (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21516953)

As someone who failed their A-Levels (that's post school, pre uni 16 - 18yr old education for the non-Brits) miserably having been told for years I have to succeed, that I have to get top grades and so forth to go to uni and do amazingly only to not do so great and fall into a pit of "I'm stupid, I can't do this, it's too hard for me" and then giving up.

7 years down the road, thanks for the open university (www.open.ac.uk), an establishment that gives not a shit about league tables but instead actually cares about learning, education and research you know, the things Unis are meant to be about I am now a first class honours computing and mathematical sciences graduate. Not only that but I achieved this whilst working full time and in 3 years, so around 40 - 45hrs work a week and around 32hrs studying, I also feel that what the article suggests is true, that intelligence isn't something that's entirely fixed - some take things in easier than others certainly whilst others have to work hard but I do not feel any more that there's many areas beyond my grasp if I have the time, money and inclination to learn them. This is why I'll soon be starting my second degree in Physics which I will follow up with a Masters and hopefully eventually a phd. Why you ask? Because when you're not forced to learn, and when you're learning because you want to learn, learning is fun and there's little you can't do if you have the raw motivation of wanting to learn behind you.

Fuck the people who tell you you're stupid, it's them that make you stupid. Don't let them get away with it - defy them and learn anyway so that you can come back and gloat about how wrong they were.

Intelligence models. (3, Insightful)

mattgreen (701203) | more than 6 years ago | (#21516979)

I am learning electric guitar. I see the aforementioned "nature v. nurture" debate all the time. When discussing technique, some people progress a bit faster on the instrument than others and attribute it to natural talent. But everyone hits a wall eventually and then it boils down to perseverance and dedicated practice. Neither of those things is fun, especially when you just want to rock out. Luckily there are few things I like more than a challenge, so my slow rate of progress does not always deter me.

But I think kids have an advantage here, not because of their more malleable brains (although that helps) but because they often have fewer preconceptions that they should be immediately successful in what they do. I tend to stick to doing what I'm good at for most of the day and try to avoid being bad at things. I think our culture reinforces this point quite a bit with talent search shows and whatnot. But that is another discussion.

About time! (1)

stewbacca (1033764) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517013)

It's about time slashdot started posting substantive articles again. While I agree with the premise of the article, it is important to teach kids to recognize their strengths and go with them. This is in contrast to the article's position of never giving a child a hint that they might actually be good at one thing or another (whether it's innate ability, or through learned experiences). This tip-toeing around kids so as not to set them up for failure will do exactly that.

Intelligence vs. Knowledge (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517075)

This article fails to distinguish intelligence from knowledge. I would argue that intelligence is innate but knowledge isn't. Intelligence is the ability to think and learn quickly; knowledge, if you have it, makes intelligence less necessary. You cannot acquire intelligence (except to the extent that using your mind makes it more intelligent) but you can acquire knowledge if you work at it. Just about every problem has a trick or a gimmick to it that, once you know it, you can use over and over.

In school they usually give you the knowledge, in the lectures or the books, and then you have to apply it. Since everyone gets the same knowledge, intelligence is advantageous in that environment. But in life, the knowledge is often hard to find, there is no textbook, and so knowledge has the advantage.

For example, I'm intelligent, but I don't know anything, and nobody will tell me anything...

Start Early (1)

garfi5h (1130099) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517083)

In addition to this, you could also start teaching your kids at an early age.

Scientific American is not credible (0, Troll)

rufusdufus (450462) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517107)

Whether this article is correct or just made up it's impossible to trust it based on the magazine's credibility. Check out the latest Scientfic American: a story on Big Foot [sciam.com] with the tagline "Sasquatch is just a legend, right? According to the evidence, maybe not..". Another winner is the dubious title "Are Aliens Among Us?"
Looking at their advertisers (paper version), its easy to question the publisher's character. Full pages ads that sell 'valuable collector coins' and these wacky types of stories are the type of thing I expect from the National Enquirer type tabloids not a trustworthy source of science news.

My favorite quotes (3, Insightful)

weave (48069) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517175)

"It is one of the essential features of such incompetence that the person so afflicted is incapable of knowing that he is incompetent. To have such knowledge would already be to remedy a good portion of the offense."

-- Miller, W. I. (1993).
Humiliation. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press)

I think it's important to teach children that they are NOT special, that they can't do everything necessarily, to be cool with that, and that they have to be aware of their areas of lack of knowledge and work further towards improving them. The more you learn and the more you understand, leads to greater appreciation of how much you still don't know. Know that there are others who have skills and knowledge you don't have and suck up to them to learn from them.

The power of intelligence rests on understanding your own limitations and working hard to overcome them. Adults who think they know it all are most often idiots, and unfortunately many are also raising children.

Which leads me to another fave quote:

"Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge."
-- Darwin, C. (1871). The descent of man. (London: John Murray)

Er, no, I'm not confident I know everything about this topic! ;-)

Re:My favorite quotes (1)

stormguard2099 (1177733) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517309)

"Have you ever tried simply turning off the TV, sitting down with your children, and hitting them?" - Bender

sorry, couldn't resist

Challenges (2, Insightful)

Tom (822) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517213)

Challenges are energizing rather than intimidating offering opportunities to learn.
That, for all I know, is the crucial point. All the unusually intelligent people I know (myself included) see the challenge as the interesting part, and the "victory" when you've overcome it much less so, in fact "winning" is the boring part.

Most of the more down-to-earth people I know see it exactly the other way around: The struggle is what they hate, the kill is what gives them satisfaction.

I know the secret... (3, Interesting)

Shifuimam (768966) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517235)

...at least as far as how to make your kids smarter from the start. QUIT LETTING THEM WATCH INORDINATE AMOUNTS OF TELEVISION, MOVIES, AND VIDEO GAMES. Make them read. The more they read, the better their critical thinking skills, the better their grasp of grammar and spelling, and the more knowledge they will gain. I wasn't allowed to watch TV when I was a kid. Period. We owned an Atari 2600 (when N64 was the newest console), but that was it. While banning your children from the television entirely isn't the best idea, I read a ton, and now I'm generally more intelligent than most people my age - not just book smart; I just comprehend things better than most of the kids who were in my classes in college and whatnot. Raising your kids to never fail is bad, but raising your kids to never do any mentally-intensive work is bad, too. Playing Call of Duty for ten hours on a Saturday isn't going to do a whole lot for your cognitive development.

The secret to smart kids is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517249)

... not to put them in the public school system.

Re:The secret to smart kids is... (1)

Shifuimam (768966) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517275)

Oh, that's not true.

I went to a private school, K-12. Some of the dumbest kids on the planet were at my school, and it was because their parents didn't take an active interest in their education, so they were allowed to slack off.

There were guys in my graduating class who could barely multiply two numbers or spell words containing more than five letters.

Public school has nothing to do with it, really. If you want to learn, you'll learn, no matter where you are. The parenting side has everything to do with it. If you raise your kids to slack off and just seek instant gratification/entertainment, they'll never be interested in learning, and even sending them to Harvard isn't going to make them smart (or even average).

the piano study (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#21517313)

In New-York they studied lots of kids learning the piano. Kids from all backgrounds learn the piano so it was easy to get a varied sample. The result was those who practiced more did better. This was universal. Its possible only some kids were capable of ultimately becoming the next Mozart but while learning no kids progressed without practicing and no kids failed to progress while practicing. The naturally talented kids who could effortlessly steam ahead without practicing just did not seem to exist.

Of course outside piano practice it can be sometimes tricky to identify what you should be doing to productively practice. But the basic theory holds quite well if you cast back over your education.

Its not terribly romantic mind but it does explain a fair bit.

Explain mine then (1)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#21517317)

My oldest daughter Leila's IQ is 65. Her little sister Patty's IQ is 135.

Leila's umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck when she was born. There's no way she could ever have become a neurosurgeoun with that handicap, any more than ny friend Mike, who had polio as a child, was ever going to be a professional football player.

You can only work with what you have.
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