Why I Try to Not Tell My Daughter She's Smart

Family Matters on 11.05.12
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Kids are smart. However, as intelligent as we think they are, research indicates we shouldn’t tell them that. Kids who are praised on their effort over their intelligence take more risks when learning and aren’t as afraid of failure.

Numerous studies have found that when kids are praised for their effort, they feel they had greater control over the outcome of their work and that they could increase their intelligence at will. Kids who were told they were smart were more likely to give up on a task they felt was too hard because it threatened their innately intelligence. It seems like focusing on their effort encourages children to work hard and problem solve and reinforces these skills to be used throughout their lives.

On their last visit, my in-laws shared that they had heard it was better not to praise a child’s intelligence. They didn’t want to tell my daughter she was smart after that, but they weren’t sure else what else they could say to her.  The toyed around with my husband’s suggestion of clever and whispered she was smart hoping no one heard them. As hard as they tried, they couldn’t help themselves from telling my daughter she was smart. I appreciated how hard it was for them to find something else to say because I catch myself with the same struggle.

The research also indicates not praising intelligence can be a major confidence booster. I’m trying to change the way I encourage my daughter so that she will be confident and learn that the process she takes is just as important as the result of her efforts.

It can be hard to find new ways to offer encouragement to your child and break old habits.  How do you choose to praise your child?

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