You are so Smart!

Never tell your kids they are smart.  Never ever ever.

At least that is what the experts say.

The kiddies after being praised for knowing that the dinosaur behind them was the T Rex.

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!”    

M & M doing their nightly reading

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….

2 thoughts on “You are so Smart!

  1. Kathy says:

    Seriously? You need to quit reading articles :). And rest assured, it won’t be long before you are saying, “you are such a smart aleck” so enjoy these times with your very smart children.

    • marymenkedick says:

      Thanks Kath! If I am not worrying about one of the two, something ain’t right! I do need to learn to just let it go more often – I am getting there! I hope all is well with you – I was rooting for KY to take it all in the Final Four! Next year…. Love you! Mary

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