Why do smart kids have low self-esteem, underachieve & give up easily?

According to a survey by Columbia University 85% of American parents think it’s important to tell their kids that they’re smart.  However, child psychology research has in recent years discovered that this form of praise fails to improve a child’s self-esteem.  In fact, praising a child’s smarts too often will likely lower self-esteem and cause a child to perform more poorly on academic tests and give up more easily.  Po Bronson wrote a seminal article for New York Magazine in February 2007 about this inverse power of praise.  From 1970 to 2000 there have been approximately 15,000 scholarly articles written on self-esteem. The leading proponent of self-esteem was asked by the Association for Psychological Science to review these studies.  The conclusions were shocking and the researcher called it the biggest disappointment of his career.  Self-esteem did not improve grades,  career achievement, or much of anything.  What has been discovered is that praising a kid for his or her intelligence communicates the message to “look smart and don’t risk making mistakes”.  Kids who think innate intelligence is the key to success discount the importance of effort.  Expending effort becomes stigmatized – proof positive they can’t hack it based on their natural gifts.  However, those children praised for their effort were not discouraged by failure and kept working hard which led to improved test scores and greater self-esteem. The lead researcher, Carol Dweck discovered that “Empasizing effort gives a child a variable they can control.  They come to see themselves as in control of their success.”  In repeated experiments, Dweck found this effect on every socioeconomic class and with both boys and girls at all ages.  In fact, the brightest of girls seemed to collapse the most following failure.  For praise to be effective it needs to be specific and genuine. Children just as adults can sniff out phony compliments.  Overpraised kids’ primary concern becomes one of “image maintenance”.  They give up easily and don’t persevere. Children praised in genuine and specific ways for their efforts develop both persistence and perseverance.  These children rebound strongly from failure and react by working harder and maintaining motivation through long periods of delayed gratification.