A fascinating article entitled, “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” appears in this month’s New Yorker magazine. It talks about studies made of kids who have been identified as gifted” and repeatedly told so. It turns out these kids have a tough time when things don’ come easily for them. Where another, more “average” kid learns early on that some things are simply hard, but if you work at them, over time, you can master them, gifted kids, accustomed to having things come easily to them, are inclined to abandon ship when skill mastery requires real effort. Struggling at something tends to wreak havoc in the self-identity they have developed, or, more precisely, has been developed within them through the parents, teachers, and other adults who, throughout their life, have praised them for their brains.
Here’s a striking quote from the article. “When we praise children for their intelligence, we tell them that this is the name of the game: Look smart, don’t risk making mistakes.” Apparently we don’t do kids a favor by praising them for how smart they are; kids are much better off getting praise when they try hard.
I wrote a post a couple of months back entitled, “Try Again.” I noted there that there is a quality of perseverance that Jesus often praised, identifying it with what he meant by “faith”. Tenacity… Grit… a refusal to give up in the face of great adversity. To drive his point home Jesus told a story about a widow without money who wears out the unjust judge with her continual coming until he finally gives into her plea. (Luke 18:1-8)
Peculiarly, to be born gifted and then to be recognized as such may put a person at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to developing this most essential of qualities.