Never tell your kids they are smart. Never ever ever.
At least that is what the experts say.
In a study outlined in How Not To Talk to Your Kids, simply telling children that they are smart may hinder the chances of truly excelling because they have less incentive to try new things. They are too concerned about winning their parents’ praise and worried about failing. To the contrary, the more you focus on a child’s effort, the better off they may be. For example, if you have a child that worked for an hour and spelled all of her words correctly, you should say to her “You worked really hard on that project and look at what you achieved.” Studies show that such praise has a direct effect of getting kids to work harder because they hear praise about their effort and therefore increase their effort the next time to get further praise.
I have showered my kids with unsolicited “smart” praise since their birth. “Oh, you are the smartest baby ever” after Maria looked at me while nursing the first night after her birth. After her first step, I exclaimed “You are the smartest girl ever!” Mario did not escape this type of praise either. When he crawled across the room, I boasted “You are the smartest infant ever!” When he wrote the letter “a” a few months ago, I replied “You are the smartest boy ever!”
And all that time, I was actually screwing them up! Ahh, tis the insanity of life.
Now, when Maria or Mario pronounce a word in their book correctly, I respond with “You worked really hard to pronounce that word correctly – great job. You are so smart!” For some reason, I just can’t drop that express “smart” praise. I am the same way with the words “hun” and “darlin'”. I have that Perkins pancake waitress twang in me from 7 years waitressing through high school and college and I still find myself calling people “hun” in a meeting with top administrators. It is hard to break a habit. So, I am taking baby steps… I am working on mixing praise of intelligence with praise of effort with the hopes that I will at least help nourish grade “C” children in the future! Heck, I am sure I will read next month from another journal that praise of intelligence is the best form of praise….