Should You Call Your Kids Smart? Scientists Say Praising Your Kids Could Deter Their Learning

By Lana Gilbert on October 28, 2017

Should you tell your kids they are smart or talented? Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, says praising your kids may limit their learning potential since it promotes a fixed mindset. A fixed mindset is the belief that intelligence and talent are fixed traits. People with fixed mindsets typically believe they are naturally good or bad at certain things and that their intelligence is fixed from birth.

You might be thinking, “Uh-oh. I’ve called my kid or someone else’s kid smart before.”

Don’t worry. The ill-effects of such innocent praise are reversible with a growth mindset. A growth mindset is the belief that effort and practice can help grow your abilities.


At first glance a growth mindset may sound too good to be true, but if you feel that way, it could be your fixed mindset talking.

Research has shown favorable results throughout the United States. A teacher was able to take a Harlem kindergarten class filled with students who threw tantrums and could barely hold a pencil to the 95th percentile on the national achievement test. The same teacher took her 4th grade students, who were also very behind at first, to the top of New York’s state math test. The teacher attributes the development of a growth mindset to the success of her students.

Growth mindsets enhance performance out of the classroom too. There have been instances where children developed better relationships with their parents and other students after adopting a growth mindset.

It is not too late for adults to develop a growth mindset either. Many companies like Microsoft have embedded the growth mindset concept in their company culture.


So if you begin to doubt your abilities or you have a tough time getting your child to cooperate at school or at home, start building a growth mindset environment today. Professor Dweck outlines the tools needed to create this environment in her book, which can be purchased here.

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