Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why You Shouldn't Tell Your Kids They're 'Smart'

February 29, 2012

I try not to get into the habit of telling my kids they're smart.

Don't get me wrong. This habit doesn't mean that I think they have low intelligence; quite the opposite is true. However, if they bring home a great grade or happen to grasp a concept easily, the last thing I want to say to them is "Wow, you're so smart!"

Before you jump on me for being a bad parent or sic the childhood self-esteem police on me, let me explain.

A year or so ago, I read something on the work of Carol Dweck, a Stanford psychologist, and it profoundly shifted my thinking on parenting, intelligence, and self-esteem. Dweck has studied, among other things, the negative implications of affirming kids by telling them they're "smart" when they succeed. New York Magazine has a great piece getting into some of the fascinating nuances of the study, but here are the headlines:

Kids who were told they were smart were more likely to rely on their intelligence and discount the importance of effort. They worried more about keeping up the appearance of being "smart" rather than trying to learn new skills. However, if a kid was told that they were doing well because they worked hard, they were more likely to take risks and try increasingly difficult problems.

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