CBS Local — Parents take great pride when they get to praise their children for their achievements in school. According to researchers in Canada, all the praise may actually push the “smart kids” to cheat more.

Kang Lee, a professor at the Jackman Institute of Child Studies in Toronto, has published two studies where he contends the wrong types of praise will make students more likely to be dishonest and cheat on exams.

“Praise is more complex than it seems,” Lee claims. “Praising a child’s ability implies that the specific behavior that is commented on stems from stable traits related to one’s ability, such as smartness. This is different than other forms of praise, such as praising specific behaviors or praising effort.”

The researchers conducted a test by having a group of young children compete in a guessing game. Lee and his team studied the kids after some were praised for being very smart and the others were praised for their effort in the game. According to the findings, the group who were praised for their natural intelligence were caught looking at the answers to the game more than those praised for effort.

The team says that children praised for their natural gifts feel pressure to perform in order to live up to others’ expectations.

“We want to encourage children, we want them to feel good about themselves,” Lee said, but warned that only praising a child’s specific behavior will produce more positive results.


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