Sep 19, Marshmallow test: Delayed gratification isn’t just about willpower

The marshmallow test: Delayed gratification isn't just a matter of willpower © 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Sometimes the smart thing is to reject an immediate reward in order to wait for something better. But this isn’t always the case, and delayed gratification isn’t always a matter of willpower. Studies show that children’s choices depend a lot on our own behavior. When adults appear unreliable – or downright untrustworthy – kids choose instant rewards over future benefits. Here are the details. If you’ve read about self-control and delayed gratification in children, you’ve probably heard of the marshmallow test. Sit a child down at a table, offer him a marshmallow, and make the following promise: “You can eat this now if you want, but if you wait 15 minutes until I come back, and I see you haven’t eaten it, I will give you another one. You’ll end up with two marshmallows." What do kids do? Some show great powers of delayed gratification, not touching that ..
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Sep 12, Growth mindset: Can a theory of intelligence really boost achievement?

Growth mindset: Can a theory of intelligence change the way you learn? © 2008-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved What you believe about cognitive performance - the theory of intelligence that you adopt - can have brain-altering effects, and enhance your ability to learn. Yet programs designed to promote the right, "growth mindset" in students haven't always worked. Why not? I think the answer has to do with follow-through. Merely believing that you can grow doesn't turn you into an achiever. You have to apply yourself, too. Here is a look at the research, and some suggestions for helping students reach their full potential. What is your theory of intelligence? What do you believe makes people smart? Years ago, anthropologists and cultural psychologists noticed that people hold very different beliefs depending on their cultural upbringing. For example, in Western countries, people often take the view that intelligence is innate and fixed: Individuals are bor..
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Sep 5, Student-teacher relationships: Why emotional support matters

Student-teacher relationships: Why emotional support matters © 2013 - 2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Supportive student-teacher relationships boost achievement, and protect kids from the effects of stress. But many students don't get the chance to form such bonds. What can we do to help? Imagine 120 children, six-year-olds seated at computers. As part of an experiment, the kids are taking a series of cognitive tests. But the researchers aren't trying to figure out who's smarter. They're trying to find out if student-teacher relationships affect the way kids think. So the researchers have taken photographs of all the children's teachers. And just before being given a new problem to solve, each child is shown his or her teacher's face. The image appears only for a split second, a time span so brief the kids aren't even aware of what they've seen. It's subliminal. But it has an effect, because the kids who have close, affec..
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Aug 29, The authoritarian parenting style: What does it look like?

The authoritarian parenting style: What does it look like? © 2010-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved The authoritarian parenting style: Little nurturing, lots of psychological control You might have a good handle on what it means to favor authoritarian government: The blind submission to authority. The stifling of autonomous, critical thinking. The attempt control people through threats and fear. But how does this compare with authoritarian parenting? And what makes authoritarian parenting different from other approaches to child-rearing? First, it's important to distinguish authoritarian parenting from authoritative parenting. They have similar names, and both styles of parenting set high standards of conduct. But there are important differences. As I explain elsewhere, authoritative parents are more responsive and nurturing towards their kids. And authoritarian parents? We might think of boot camp, with the parent as drill sergeant. A drill sergeant insists o..
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Aug 22, Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it?

Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it? © 2011-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Spatial intelligence is crucial for many tasks, yet it's often neglected at school. Can we improve visuo-spatial ability? Experiments indicate that we can. Here's what you need to know. Spatial intelligence: A definition and some examples Spatial intelligence, or visuo-spatial ability, has been defined "the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images" (Lohman 1996). It's what we do when we visualize shapes in our "mind's eye." It's the mental feat that architects and engineers perform when they design buildings. The capacity that permits a chemist to contemplate the three-dimensional structure of a molecule, or a surgeon to navigate the human body. It's what Michelangelo used when he visualized a future sculpture trapped inside a lump of stone. It's also the mode of thought we use to imagine ..
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Aug 22, Spatial intelligence: What is it? And how can we enhance it?

Spatial intelligence: What is it, and how can we enhance it? © 2011-2018 Gwen Dewar, Ph.D., all rights reserved Spatial intelligence is crucial for many tasks, yet it's often neglected at school. Can we improve visuo-spatial ability? Experiments indicate that we can. Here's what you need to know. Spatial intelligence: A definition and some examples Spatial intelligence, or visuo-spatial ability, has been defined "the ability to generate, retain, retrieve, and transform well-structured visual images" (Lohman 1996). It's what we do when we visualize shapes in our "mind's eye." It's the mental feat that architects and engineers perform when they design buildings. The capacity that permits a chemist to contemplate the three-dimensional structure of a molecule, or a surgeon to navigate the human body. It's what Michelangelo used when he visualized a future sculpture trapped inside a lump of stone. It's also the mode of thought we use to imagine ..
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Aug 15, The benefits of toy blocks: The science of construction play

The benefits of toy blocks: The science of construction play © 2008-2018 Gwen Dewar, PH.D., all rights reserved Toy blocks, also called "building blocks," are solid shapes used for construction play. Some are simple planks made of wood. Others are fancy, like the interlocking bricks of plastic made by Lego and MegaBlox. But whatever form they take, blocks can function as powerful learning tools. Studies suggest that toy blocks can help children develop motor skills and hand-eye coordination, spatial reasoning, cognitive flexibility, language skills, a capacity for creative, divergent thinking, social competence, and engineering skills. There is also evidence that complex block-play is linked with higher mathematical achievement. How does it all happen? It's easy to see how stacking and arranging toy blocks could stimulate a toddler's motor development. But for other skills, it's likely that kids need to do more than simply move blocks around. Research suggest..
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Aug 8, How video games affect school performance

The effects of video games on school achievement © 2018 Gwen Dewar, all rights reserved What are the effects of video games on school achievement? Are we doing kids a disservice by letting them play on a daily basis? Or does gaming actually help sharpen a child's mental faculties, and perform better in school? We need more research to answer these questions definitively. In particular, we need randomized, controlled experiments, and those are lacking. But based on the limited information we have now, it seems that extreme claims on either side of the spectrum are wrong. On the one hand, playing video games probably doesn't harm school performance -- not as long as kids don't play so much that they neglect school-related activities, like reading, or skimp on sleep. And not as long as the games they play are age-appropriate, and don't cause emotional troubles. On the other hand, video games aren't a magical pill for boosting IQ, or transforming poor stu..
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Aug 1, Positive parenting tips

Positive parenting tips Getting better results with humor, empathy, and diplomacy © 2018 GWEN DEWAR, PH.D., ALL RIGHTS RESERVED Everyday encounter: Listening to the sounds of chewing, by David D / flickr Who needs positive parenting tips? What's the fuss about, anyway? Positive parenting means slightly different things to different people. But the core idea might be summed up this way: Positive parenting emphasizes warm, positive family interactions, and guides children by rewarding and reinforcing their better impulses. The goal is to empathize with children, offer them warmth and support, and create situations that make it easier for kids to behave cooperatively and constructively (e.g., Gardner et al 1999; Boeldt et al 2012). Is it worth the effort? The research is compelling on this point. For example, studies show that children with conduct problems are more likely to improve if their parents abandon harsh discipline practices in favor of positive parenting techniq..
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Tips for Motivating Children to do their Jobs

Common Situations Do you dread getting your children to do all of the things they need to do? Are you tired of reminding them to do their chores? Do you wonder how you can motivate them to complete their tasks without your help? The Tip If so, today’s tip may be just the answer you are looking for: Use clear instructions, encouragement and praise to motivate children to do chores. How it Works Be Clear First, make sure your children really understand: what they need to do. how they need to do it. what constitutes a job well done. Often children want your help because they are unsure about what they should do and how to do it. They need your clear instructions in order to proceed. At the beginning, you may need to work with your children before they are ready to work on their own. It can take a while, longer than you’d expect or like, before they are ready to work independently. Be patient. Encourage them Next, help your children to know and understand what the benefits are to t..
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