We think we’re being wonderful parents and grandparents when we praise children for being so smart. Believe it or not, it doesn’t work.

It’s time to consider giving up the “you’re so smart” compliments.

Research shows that when you praise kids for being smart, it does not provide encouragement and it may have the opposite effect on your child or grandchild.

They may:

-become frightened of failure.

-may believe that intelligence is something you’re born with and it’s unchangeable.

-and may end up worrying more about keeping up the appearance that they’re smart, and take less risks and pull away from trying new things.

So what does build confidence while also boosting self-esteem? Positive reinforcement and constructive compliments.

With that said, here is a great list of 30 ways to praise your kids and grandkids for their achievements. These specific acknowledgements foster self-esteem, initiative and “smart” risk taking later in life.

Instead of saying “You are so smart,” say this instead:

      1. You tried really hard on that.
      2. You never gave up, even when it was hard.
      3. You have such a positive attitude.
      4. You have really improved on _____.
      5. What a creative solution to that problem!
      6. You work well with your classmates.
      7. What a great friend you are!
      8. I love how you took ownership of that.
      9. That was a very responsible thing you did.
      10. I like the way you are doing ____.
      11. I admire the way you ________.


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    1. You really handled that situation well because you ______.
    2. It was brave of you to _______.
    3. I love that you are so prepared for class.
    4. You did a great job of helping with _____. Thank you.
    5. You have take great care of your ______.
    6. You remembered to bring _____. Great job.
    7. I know I can trust you because _____.
    8. I can tell you studied so hard.
    9. I appreciate how helpful you were when you ______.
    10. You did a great job with your chores.
    11. I could tell you worked hard on ___ because of _____.
    12. It is so nice to see you value other people’s opinions.
    13. I can tell you tried your very best because of _____.
    14. You really encouraged your friend/sister/brother today when you _____.
    15. What a creative way to solve a problem! Wow!
    16. You are not afraid of a challenge. I admire that.
    17. You thought of that all by yourself. That’s wonderful.
    18. You remembered to _______(specific skill). Great thinking!
    19. I am so proud that you made that choice.

Great list, eh? It’s hard to remember to do this, so I printed the list off and look at it once in awhile to remind myself to praise in a more powerful way.

If inspired, please share.


Dr. Shawne

Related Articles:
The Brain Science Behind Kids’ Behavior
Gigantic List of Ideas for Being Home with Kids

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