Why You Shouldn‘t Tell Your Kids They’re Smart

Don’t Use the ‘S’ Word

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck’s monumental work has proven that when children are told they are smart, they are more likely to count on their intelligence and discount the importance of hard work.

They will end up worrying more about keeping up the appearance of being a “smart” child, rather than taking risks and trying to learn new things.

In contrast, kids who were praised for their hard work and not for their innate abilities, and who were told their success is a result of their efforts, were more likely to take risks and try increasingly harder tasks. If they failed, they worked hard to learn from their failure.

The basic idea is that kids who are told they are smart attribute this to their raw, god-given talent, while kids who are told they worked hard realize they have the power to make a change.

So when both groups are faced with a challenge, the ‘smart’ kids want to protect their self-image and outer appearance of being smart and therefore will try to avoid the challenge, and thus avoiding the possibility of a mistake.

The hard workers don’t care about that and are OK with mistakes, since they can be fixed with hard work. So they take on the challenge and come what may.

This is why calling your child smart may seem like worthy praise, but it’s the wrong kind of praise. Don’t use the S word, just praise the hard work, and the results will surprise you.