Using the word "smart" with children

Learn about: Using the word "smart" with children from JoAnn Deak, PhD,...
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Using the word "smart" with children

I get to observe parents and their children. One of the words I hear all the time is, "Oh, look how smart you are." We all used to believe that was a very powerful positive thing to say to children. New research actually shows the opposite. I'm actually asking parents to delete the word "smart" from their vocabulary. We have research to show that if you say to your children, "You are smart," or "Look how smart you are;" over time, what that does is that when your child tries to do something and they can't get it right away, or easily, they say, "I'm not smart enough." It gives them what we call a fixed view of intelligence. Intelligence isn't fixed. It acts like a muscle. The more I do, actually, the more intelligent I can become. We would rather parents say to their children: "Look how much you've changed;" or "Look what you've done;" or "You can't do that yet, but keep going." It's that concept of you are not there yet, that is more powerful when dealing with kids. Being supportive of that, and being supportive of change. We see kids actually improving their IQ, their intelligence, and their capability to handle tasks. It sounds weird, but don't use the word "smart" with your kids.

Learn about: Using the word "smart" with children from JoAnn Deak, PhD,...


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JoAnn Deak, PhD

Psychologist & Author

JoAnn Deak, PhD, has spent more than 30 years as an educator and psychologist, helping children develop into confident and competent adults. The latter half of that period has also focused on working with adults, parents and teachers in their roles as guides or ‘neurosculptors’ of children. On her website is a quote that best describes her perspective on her work: “every interaction a child has, during the course of a day, influences the adult that child will become.”

Parents and educators at schools from New York to Hawaii, as well as such organizations as the National Association of School Psychologists, the National Association of Independent Schools, the Association of International Schools, the American Montessori Society and the International Baccalaureate Association, have heralded Dr. Deak’s ability to demystify complex issues of child development, learning, identify formation and brain research.

Dr. Deak has been an advisor to Outward Bound, a past chair of the National Committee for Girls and Women in Independent Schools, on the advisory board for the Center on Research for Girls (Laurel School), for the Seattle Girls’ School, Bromley Brook School, the Red Oak School, Power Play and GOAL. She consults with organizations and schools across the United States. Most recently, she has worked internationally with schools, organizations, associations and parent groups in every continent (except Antarctica!) She has been awarded the Woman of Achievement Award by the National Coalition of Girls’ Schools, was given the first Female Educator of the Year Award by Orchard House School, and the Outstanding Partner for Girls Award from Clemson University. She has been named the Visiting Scholar in New Zealand, the Visiting Scholar for Montessori Children’s House and has been the Resident Scholar for the Gardner Carney Leadership Institute in Colorado Springs for the past five years.

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