Intelligence versus Effort: What are we praising?

drawing2.jpgI have been reading this book called Mindset by Carol Dweck and let me tell you how in just the first couple of chapters it has made me realize that I may be praising my kids all wrong?! Dweck talks a lot about how starting from when kids are very little, we praise their intelligence non-stop. Examples like: “You’re so smart,” “You’re the best,” “You’re great,” “You did so well,” you get the idea. However, that type of praise, the praise of intelligence, is perceived by kids to be something innate, something that they cannot change or improve. They believe that what talent they are born with is the talent that they have. So they tend to only stick to things that they are “good” at and shy away from a challenge. They look to maintain/prove their appearance of being the bestest, smartest, greatest at the things we constantly praise them for.| However, there is a different type of praise. Praise around effort. Examples include: “I like how you concentrated on your worksheet without asking for a break,” “You must have practiced really hard” (after having a good game/dance recital/etc). This type of specific praise lets them know what they did to deserve the praise and what they can continue to do to get more. They learn that with effort comes success/praise/improvement. AND that if they are not good at something, they can exert effort and become good at it. They think of challenges as opportunities and not as limitations. MIND-BOGGLING isn’t it. We all do it, want to show everyone that our kid is the best, greatest, smartest, and most beautiful child in the world. But with that, are we setting them up for failure? Here is the article that got me thinking, and that even 8 years later, we have not made much progress. This book is an excellent read, highly recommend it. Enjoy! Have you had an ah-ha moment from reading just this short snippet on praise?


  1. Amy says

    you should read Choice words by Peter Johnston also. It’s written for teachers but it changed me in the same way mindset does. You will think about the way you speak to your kiddos and how wha you say can impact the way they approach life.

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