As a parent, we want to give our children the tools they need to survive in the world. Among those tools is a functioning and unwavering self esteem. To provide that, we tell them they're smart, beautiful, creative, etc. We give them loving praise. What's wrong with that? Well, the kind of praise kids often receive from parents and caretakers is person praise. Its a kind of praise that projects an identity onto another person. If someone tells you you're smart often enough, eventually you will believe it.
The deeper issue is that identifying as someone who is smart is limiting. Studies have shown that children who are told they are smart after receiving a good grade struggle if they receive a bad grade later. The reason is, the child identifies as being smart and they begin to correlate that with proof (grades) and when that "proof" no longer lines up with what they believe about themselves (being smart), they question that identifier. These children face the onslaught of issues that come with perfectionism, including inhibitions that prevent them from trying new things after they fail due to a fear of failure.
This obviously isn't conducive to long term success. So what can parents and caretakers do instead? They can praise the process instead of praising the person. It sounds something like this "Wow, you got a god grade! You must have worked so hard for that. It takes dedication to learn something new. Isn't it amazing how much you can learn when you try?" This kind of praise teaches children to value the journey. Children who receive this kind of praise are more innovative, and they see problems as an opportunity to find solutions. They are easily motivated to try new things with less attachment to the outcome.
A similar finding was discovered in relationship philosophies. One philosophy is that two people are soul mates and they were meant to be together. Another philosophy is that a relationship is a journey full of personal development and united growth. People of the first philosophy were found to withdraw during conflict and to look back on times of conflict as a negative experience. This association reduces the likelihood that they will resolve their issues head on with healthy communication skills.
People of the second philosophy looked back on past conflicts through a lens of "look how far we've come!" and in a sense were celebrating their conflict. This sets up the foundation to view fights as a growth opportunity. This further sets up a future expectation to handle conflict with objectivity, using healthy communication styles to resolve it. Rather than fear the outcome, they see the process as something worthwhile, which inherently leads to a better outcome in both current and future situations.
So we need to be more aware of how we talk to others as well as ourselves. We need to reframe person praise into something that we can utilize for a greater foundation. A smart person isn't smart. They appreciate knowledge and are enthusiastic about opportunities to learn. An independent person isn't independent. They are passionate about testing their personal limits. A kind person isn't kind. They are genuinely concerned about the well being of other people. So I challenge you to think about what identifies you and turn it into a journey that empowers you.