"How Not to Talk to Your Kids" - 19 Feb. 2007

New York

 

Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman won for their piece in New York magazine on the science of praising children. According to a Columbia University survey, 85 percent of American parents think it is important to tell their children that they are smart, helping to ensure that they do not sell their talents short. But in a cover story in New York magazine, Bronson and Merryman described a growing body of research which suggests that giving kids the label “smart” does not prevent them from underperforming. Rather, it may actually be a cause of their underperformance. The story noted that the impulse to offer praise “has become a sort of panacea for the anxieties of modern parenting.” Roylance called the story a “terrifically written exploration of a topic of interest to any parent.” He said it was a “surprising, counter-intuitive treatment, well-sourced and well-grounded in the scientific literature.” Robert Boyd, a science writer in the Washington Bureau of McClatchy newspapers, called it a “beautifully written story of substantial importance to legions of parents…valuable that it appeared in a magazine not known for science articles.” He added that the story “reports actual scientific findings, not just pop-psychology generalities.”

“There is no higher recognition than the AAAS awards,” Bronson said.  “The scientists we interview often titter amusedly, ‘Well, your work’s not peer-revewed.’ Now we can tell them, ‘It kinda has been.’”