How to set your kids up for success- don’t tell them they’re smart

Apr 10

I just read a review on Guy Kawasaki’s blog of an article called “The Effort Effect” by Marina Krakovsky, that addresses some of the questions I’m always pondering about how to best set Jack up for success.

“Labels, even though positive, can be harmful. They may instill a fixed mind-set and all the baggage that goes with it, from performance anxiety to a tendency to give up quickly. Well-meaning words can sap children’s motivation and enjoyment of learning and undermine their performance.”

It seems that telling kids they’re smart or talented all the time is not the way to best encourage them. This can become part of their identity and lead to the mindset that talent or intelligence is a fixed trait, rather than something that can be improved with effort. Children (and adults) with this mindset give up after attempting something the first time either because they believe they are just not smart or talented enough to succeed, or conversely, because intelligence or talent is part of their self-image that must not be jeopardized by failure.

The best way to encourage children, then, is not by telling them how smart or talented they are when they succeed, but rather by praising their effort and persistence which led to the success. This helps to foster the view of “failure” as merely a challenge to find a better way to do it next time.


  1. tressa /

    That makes a lot of sense! Fantastic parenting tip!Thanks for sharing Randa! Jack is blessed!!!!

  2. So true – praise the effort. My sister and her husband learned this with their last child and are now trying to re-educate their older 2.

  3. This is an interesting idea!

Leave a Reply