Dr. Carol Dweck wrote, Mindset, and in it she outlines many examples of why building a culture based on effort is far superior to one based on ability.
I used to tell the really gifted kids how great they were, but that creates a handicap they may never overcome. Just because a child learns forms faster than others does not mean they should achieve a yellow belt in 3 months when the norm is 6 months.
Did they really EARN it?
For longevity sake, they NEED to EARN everything.
“Wow! Your kicks are so awesome,” should be replaced with, “Raise your knee a little higher.”
“I love how hard you are trying,” instead of, “Those stances are the best in the room.”
Fast forward to Green Belt, when their natural abilities have caught up to the expectations of their rank.
Do they know how to learn?
Learning is work. If they have not experienced the same personal challenges as the most uncoordinated kids in the class then all of a sudden; this thing that used to be so easy, this thing that generated all kinds of praise, starts to feel different. It feels negative, and they begin to experience failure for the first time.
As the instructor you can not understand why this person will not close their hands all the way, even though you give correction repeatedly. Or their weapons kata, which was so amazing 2 years ago, still looks exactly the same. Is it your own fault for praising ability and not encouraging effort?
Dr. Dweck seems to think that organizationally, an effort based structure is learned behavior, and I agree with that.
Nature Versus Nurture?
But I wonder about the individual. Highly talented Autistic kids thrive on their little professor praises and get crushed with criticisms so easily. Are they hard wired to want praise for everything they do? Did they learn from their upbringing that they had to achieve to be recognized? Do they naturally seek this praise?
Learning is Work. Work is Fun.
If we can teach that, then we can change lives.