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Do the Most Successful Kids Receive “Special” Kinds of Praise?

Updated: Nov 3, 2023

Science is suggesting that instead of praising kids for their inherent talents, we should be concentrating more on their efforts to problem solve.

So, basically, throw the rule book out the window. Everything that we’ve been taught as parents and educators is changing, and it’s backed by research.

A few things that are note-worthy as a result of studies:

  1. Just praising kids on how smart they are can actually cause kids to be less excited about learning and excelling as they grow up.

  2. Kids are much more likely to succeed if we praise them for their thought processes and intellect-driven journey, even if they aren’t 100% successful in their conclusion.

  3. These findings are applicable in kids as young as 1!

The bottom line of the study is that there are two mindset belief systems in play with kids.

Growth mindset: The belief that achievements can change, and that the ability to problem-solve is developed over time.

Fixed mindset: The belief that either you’ve got it, or you don’t, as far as intelligence goes.

Based on these studies, there are two ways you can look at people. Think of a smart person that you know. Like, really smart. Got it? Ok, so, if you are thinking about them from the view of a growth mindset, your view of their intelligence would be that they have succeeded in solving some very difficult problems in their life. Now, thinking of them from a fixed mindset, you would simply say,

“Wow. That dude is just smart.” See the distinction?

So, what does all this mean for kids?

To teach based on the growth mindset, focus less on a child’s intelligence, and rather praise them for their ability to problem solve like a boss. Instead of saying, “You’re just so smart,” try: “Did anything challenge you today? I love hearing how you work through stuff.” Also, instead of, “I can’t get over how good you are doing in school,” say: “What classes do you feel present struggles or challenges for you? Whatever they are, you’re rocking them, for sure.”

No matter how you’re doing it, if you’re praising kids, you’re doing something right. Always remember: if kids (and adults, let’s face it…) are making mistakes, they’re (we’re) learning. Opportunities for pats on the back are around every corner, we just have to know where to look.

Sources: Stanford University,, and Upworthy.



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