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I did it again.  Our oldest son brought home his spelling test and he had gotten a 100%.  “You are SMART!!!” I said.   I always say this when our kids bring home good grades or figure out a hard puzzle.    “You are the smartest kid I know”…  OR “Wow! Mr. Smartie Pants- you are so very smart!” … you know, all of those things that moms say to build up their kids.  I need to stop telling him he is smart.  

stop saying this to your kids

The problem with saying “You are smart!”?  I’m really NOT building them up – I am setting them up to fail.   What happens when he brings home a C or a D?  Is he no longer smart?  In his eyes, he will see this.  He will see failure.  I certainly will not, but he will.  He will see disappointment.  He will see himself as being less than smart.  He will become anxious about it, worry about it, feel the need to be perfect.

Instead, we can stop telling him he is smart and started saying “You worked so hard!”  This will ALWAYS be true, if he works hard.  The harder that he works, the better his grades will be.   The more that our kids study, the more they will know at test time.  We were unknowingly teaching our kids that things like being smart or kind are just a trait that didn’t have to be worked towards.  They started thinking that being smart was something that one child was given over another.

We say things like “He’s the funny one of the bunch” or “He’s the brains of the family” or “He is the athletic one” and we give them roles to fall into.  What happens when no one laughs at their joke or they don’t get an A on that test?   What if they lose that point for the team?  They feel like they’ve failed in their own role.   If, instead, we say “That joke was hilarious” or “You really studied for that test, didn’t you?”  or “Look how well you did at the game since you went to every practice this week!” … the outcome is up to how much they worked, not what they were ‘born’ into.

This means that no matter how much they study, how hard they work or how much they practice, they think that it just goes to those born with this skill, which means that they will just stop trying.   Let them know that it is the effort that is paying off.


Give praise to their choices, not their personality.  Teach them that they have the ability to be whatever they want to be: nice, funny, smart.

We need to start realizing that our words matter.  Our words have the capability or building our kids up or tearing them down daily.

Our words become their inner voice.   read more on that here…

inner voice

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Hi there!

I’m Becky, a former elementary school teacher turned certified child development therapist and blogger. I work at home with my husband and together we are raising (and partially homeschooling) our four children in the Carolinas. I love diet coke, ice cream, and spending time with my family.

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