I have to admit, I was intrigued. I consider my kids to be pretty smart, and know that my oldest has a bad habit of giving up on tasks he thinks are too difficult. I just put it up to his personality, that because things have come easily for him he doesn't like it when they don't. And while that may be part of it, I needed to know more.
So, I searched the internet and found the article my brother was referring to. It is from New York Magazine and can be read in full here.
Dweck had suspected that praise could backfire, but even she was surprised by the magnitude of the effect. “Emphasizing effort gives a child a variable that they can control,” she explains. “They come to see themselves as in control of their success. Emphasizing natural intelligence takes it out of the child’s control, and it provides no good recipe for responding to a failure.”
I found it extremely compelling and think it should be required reading for all parents and teachers. I know I will be trying to modify my praise for my kids, telling them specifically what they did that was so important, not generalized empty praise.