I try to be really aware of my language with my kids. No, I’m not talking about bad language, though I don’t do that either. I try to phrase things and speak to them in ways that will make them grow as people. For example, when I discipline, I try to speak words that will correct their behavior so that they will grow to become better, respectful, loving humans. I try not to use words that tear down or rip apart or shame in the name of disciple. I even desire to stay away from the neutral language that does neither. If it does not uplift and help them grow and be better than it isn’t necessary. Of course, I fail at this regularly, being human and all, but I am hoping that even just having this desire in my mind and heart will help keep me doing better than I would if I didn’t have these concepts in my mind.
So with everything I’ve been asking myself, “How are these words, this phrasing and this tone affecting their minds, self esteems, desire? How will this effect who they will be? How will this effect how they treat their own possible kids some day?”. If I can’t say I’m instilling good behaviors, feelings, and habits I start planning out a new way to treat situations that are more productive.
So I stopped calling my kids smart. I used to call them smart. “Wow, Ariel. You finished that puzzle fast. You are so smart!”. “Eve, you know all the words on that page? You are so smart”. I do not say those things anymore. I have traded in my language. Instead of rewarding natural ability I praise their efforts, the work it took to get something done, whether it took them little effort or great effort.
You might be asking Why? What is wrong with being smart? It makes people feel good and more confident to be told they are smart, right? That’s good for self-esteem.
Actually I’ve learned it is not that great. An article I recently read went into great depth discussing how children who are complimented off of their natural born intelligence get frustrated by harder work easier. Even children with really high IQ’s give up almost immediately when they hit a tough area because if it does not come natural to them they think it is not something they can do. While Children who are complimented for the work they put into a job, work harder and feel they can accomplish things if they just put the time and effort into it.
The research done showed that the children whose focus was based more on intelligence felt that needing to put effort into a subject or activity was evidence that they were not actually smart so avoiding those more difficult content areas was their preference over working harder at it so others wouldn’t believe them to not really be smart. While kids whose emphasis was on working hard felt that their smartness could grow and develop with effort. Teaching kids that their brain was a muscle that got stronger when worked had kids focusing more and getting better results.
No matter where my kids all fall on the IQ scale, I want them each to know that if they work hard for something they can achieve it. That if they desire to learn it and devote their time to learning something, they can learn it, whether it’s a natural skill or not. We are all born with different natural abilities and different levels of intelligence, which means we are not all equal in this area but we all have just as much potential if we are willing to work for it. I believe all my kids to be smart and am looking forward to continuing to work and learn with them and watch them grow and develop. I know that my kids “are smart” and I love that they will be able to see that their smarts are effort based and that they are intelligent people and all they have to do is put some effort into it and they can be as intelligent as they work to be.