How Not to Talk to Your Kids

Po and Ash's New York magazine cover story on the inverse power of praise, which won the AAAS Award for Best Journalism. First published in 2007, and later included in an expanded form in NurtureShock, this piece is still frequently included on the New York list of "most emailed" articles – almost seven years later.

What do we make of a boy like Thomas?

Thomas (his middle name) is a fifth-grader at the highly competitive P.S. 334, the Anderson School on West 84th. Slim as they get, Thomas recently had his long sandy-blond hair cut short to look like the new James Bond (he took a photo of Daniel Craig to the barber). Unlike Bond, he prefers a uniform of cargo pants and a T-shirt emblazoned with a photo of one of his heroes: Frank Zappa. Thomas hangs out with five friends from the Anderson School. They are “the smart kids.” Thomas’s one of them, and he likes belonging.

Since Thomas could walk, he has heard constantly that he’s smart. . . .