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My super sweet daughter came home from school today and asked me to write a post on praising kids on effort not intelligence.  If you are a parent, you know what went through my mind next.

My daughter is a very special girl.  She is not only special because she is the single most optimistic, friendly, outgoing person I know.  She is special because she had serious neglect as an infant and by the time she came to us we were told she may not live and if she did she would have severe disabilities.  With her permission, I have shared her whole story here.  She still has to work a little harder than most of her peers but she is really amazing.

So when that daughter comes home and asks me to write a post on praising effort not intelligence, she has my attention.  I was concerned that she was feeling insecure or that something bad had happened at school.  She told me that her teacher was talking about different ways to praise and she appreciates that we focus on effort. She wants all of my readers to know that it is very important to praise effort not intelligence.

My daughter wants parents and teachers to remember to praise kids for their effort not their intelligence.

Why it’s important to praise effort, not outcome or intelligence from my 12 year old daughter:

  • People can’t control their intelligence, but they can control their effort.
  • A really smart person who is lazy still won’t get anything done, but someone who works hard can learn to do almost anything.
  • Some people work a lot harder to get a C than other people do to get an A.
  • If you learn to always do your best and work hard, you will do better at everything you do.
  • Even the best olympic athletes failed a lot before they got really good.  If kids are afraid to fail, they might not find out they have a really cool talent.

This goes in my list of lessons I learned from painful mistakes.  With 8 kids with different abilities and natural gifts, I unknowingly caused a lot of hard feelings when we first adopted our girls.  I was used to expecting straight A’s from my sons and that was a simple way to measure success.  Learning new things is easy for them so if they didn’t have high grades that was an indicator that they weren’t really making an effort.  We talked a lot about grades.  When my daughters came, they came from a very difficult, abusive and unstable background, so school was more of a challenge for them and they had a lot of other things to focus on.  They heard us talking to the boys and thought we expected straight A’s from them too.

I realized that my children listen very closely to the praise I give the other children and they compare themselves.  Nothing good comes from that.  It led to resentment, insecurity, and hard feelings.  It took me a while to catch on to what I was doing.  It didn’t occur to me that my kids would think they were not good enough.  Didn’t I always tell them how much I loved them?  There is no better or worse in our family.  My children are unique with unique talents.

I started making a conscious effort to praise effort rather than results.  When we talk about achievements, we always focus on the work that got them there or the courage to try a new thing.  Whether it’s skiing, gymnastics, playing an instrument, or doing well in school, I am so proud of my kids’ hard work and effort that is getting great results.

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Posted by Frugal Mommy

Hi I’m Heather, a busy, happy and very frugal mom of 8 amazing kids! My journey to become a mom of 8 has been a bumpy one that has included infertility, being a foster parent, adoption, and special needs parenting. I share the things I've learned raising my big unique family.

33 Comments

  1. Wonderful and very thoughtful. You are only lucky mom, and your daughter is beyond smart. I never had issues making great grades in school while my little sister had to work so much harder. My parents would always unknowingly compare us, which for me and my sister was very frustrating and upsetting. A lot of parents and adults can learn a lot from your daughter. I’m grateful she brought those memories back, so that I can keep them fresh and in mind while raising my own daughter.

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    1. I think it’s so easy to do that without realizing it.

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  2. Beautiful post! Kid’s self esteem is based so much on what a parent does. It’s a lot of pressure! You are amazing!
    Alison recently posted…Macerated StrawberriesMy Profile

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    1. Thanks Alison!

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  3. This is a great point! We definitely try to praise the effort in our home.

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    1. 🙂

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  4. This was such a great reminder, I think it applies to lots of people – including children!

    Thank you so much for sharing.

    Beautiful!
    xo
    Krista
    http://www.hundredblog.com

    Reply

    1. Thanks Krista!

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  5. I absolutely love the message of this post! My husband and I talk a lot about this as well, but for the opposite reason. He grew up as the middle of three children. He was a natural at school and got fantastic grades all the time. His siblings, on the other hand, had to work a little harder to get decent grades. He always felt like his siblings got more praise for getting C’s and B’s than he did for getting his A’s; just because it became “expected” of him. The amount of effort was the same however and he started feeling neglected. This is an awesome post ans something that we all need to remember.
    Ashley recently posted…Blog Post Inspiration – Behind the BlogMy Profile

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    1. That is such an important perspective. Thanks for sharing!

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  6. What great reminders that everyone learns differently and is at different levels. It’s much better to focus on the effort put into activities/school. Thanks for the reminder!
    Ali B recently posted…Easy Dinner Idea ~ Potato Soup BarMy Profile

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    1. Thanks Ali B

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  7. Fabulous! Your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you!

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  8. Can’t even begin to tell you how much I love your post. This is such a timely inspiration for me. I have 2 daughters, a 6 yr old and a 3 yr old. I often forget to value her efforts, we went through some behavior challenges with our 6 yr old last year and she did turned around. Sometimes, she would misbehave and I would forget how far she had come ..how much effort she gave us. Thank you for sharing this over at Bloggers Spotlight Linky Party. I am featuring you for tonight’s party.

    Grab your button and I hope to see you again!

    Reply

    1. Thank you so much! It sounds like your daughter is moving in the right direction. I am so humbled that you featured me. I will grab my button!

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  9. You daughter has the kind of intelligence that matters, even if she never gets all “A’s.” I congratulate you on a job well-done, and I congratulate her for being willing to share her wisdom.

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  10. Your daughter is very wise. I agree with her completely. My children have different abilities and different responses to different encouragement. Every child should be met where they are and encouraged to do their best, whatever that best is. Please tell your daughter that her words touched my heart and made me cry (in a good way!)
    Traci

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  11. What a great post. This post is a great conversation starters for tweens who can sometimes be hard to get to open up.

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  12. She sounds like a very wise young woman! I definitely believe in praising hard work, regardless of whether there is a win or not 🙂

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  13. What a smart little girl! How lucky you are that she is able to identify and then bring these issues/observations up with you 🙂

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    1. Thanks. Your sweet comment made her day.

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  14. I love this! It’s so important to praise our kids so they grow up with confidence! Great Post! :))

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    1. Thank you

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  15. Oh this is so true! You are so lucky to have such a brilliant daughter. Praising our kids effort no matter what the outcome is, will motivate them more to achive their goals.

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    1. Thank you! My daughter really appreciates your comment!

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  16. This is so great. I love that she is cool about you posting this stuff to. I love her confidence.

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    1. She has really worked on her confidence over the last 2 years.

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  17. I know Kaylyn’s story, and she has survived–and thrived–against incredible odds. She is vivacious, energetic, and adorable. She and my son were best buddies in preschool. We’ve since moved away, but we must get these two together when they’re 16. 🙂

    I am very proud of Kaylyn’s accomplishments. My son has also learned to focus and work hard. School doesn’t come easy to him either, but he is doing well. Incidentally, both kids have amazing parents. 🙂

    Reply

    1. Yes we really need to get them together in a few years! I would love to end up related. 🙂 And I agree they both have great parents. His are maybe just a little more amazing. 🙂

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  18. “A really smart person who is lazy still won’t get anything done, but someone who works hard can learn to do almost anything.” Wow- that really resonated with me and is so true, based on my life observations thus far. So glad your daughter had the courage to share her pearls of wisdom. Cheers!

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    1. Thanks I really love that quote too.

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  19. Your daughter is a very smart girl, far beyond her years. Her words have me in tears as I write this because so many don’t realize what praising effort vs. intelligence does for kids that age. As someone who grew up with learning disabilities, I struggled a lot because I didn’t think I was intelligent because of those “disabilities” (I have come to figure out they really weren’t disabilities – because they make me, me). I am very lucky that I had support who did praise my effort. Due to that, I went on to be very successful in everything I do. I know that if I didn’t have that though I would have given up early on. And she is so right about always doing your best and working harder. WOW! She is an amazing, intelligent (yes, she is!) girl!

    Reply

    1. Thank you. She is a pretty great kid. I love hearing your example and how your parents support helped you achieve your dreams! hanks for sharing!

      Reply

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