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Praising Kids for Qualities Besides Looks and Talent Creates a Growth Mindset

Updated: Jun 26, 2022

Picture of dad and son building a train and high-fiving
Praise kinds for effort

As parents, we know that it is important to praise kids for things that they do well, in order to build their self-esteem. Positive messages that we give our kids matter for their future.

Did you know that the way you give praise matters too?

Recently, I watched this video based on theories by Carol Dweck, which teaches us that the ways in which we kids can heavily impact their performance on an array of tasks.

Typical Types of Praise

Many times, we praise our kids based on their looks, or on their talents. We will say things like, "You look so pretty" or, "You are so smart."

While both of these do present a positive message for our kids, it also teaches them that they are valuable based on what are called fixed qualities.

If we talk to kids about things like beauty or intelligence, without talking about how they can be changed, it can lead to what is called a "fixed mindset."

According to Mindset Matters, "Fixed mindsets can lead to negative thinking. For instance, a person with a fixed mindset might fail at a task and believe it's because they aren't smart enough to do it. Whereas a growth mindset person might fail at the same task and believe it's because they need to spend more time practicing. "

According to Today's Learner, some characteristics of a Fixed Mindset include:

  • Believes talent and intelligence are innate

  • Risk-averse

  • Threatened by others’ success

  • Sees feedback as an attack

  • Defensive of flaws

The typical ways that we praise children, even though we are viewing them as positive, may actually have negative unintended consequences.

Creating a Growth Mindset

When you praise a child for hard work and effort, it teaches that they can get better at things with practice. This helps to create what is called a "growth mindset."

As children develop a growth mindset, they are more likely to be persistent with tasks, instead of giving up easily.

According to The Atlantic, "With a growth mindset, kids don’t necessarily think that there’s no such thing as talent or that everyone is the same, but they believe everyone can develop their abilities through hard work, strategies, and lots of help and mentoring from others."

A growth mindset can be valuable for kids in school, with their extracurricular activities, as well as for the future. The more kids believe they can do something, the harder they work, and the more likely that they actually can.

When kids have a growth mindset, they become life-long learners.

According to Today's Learner, some characteristics of a growth mindset include,

  • Learning from failure

  • Resilience

  • Excited by challenges

  • Belief in self

  • Positivity

All of these positive qualities can be cultivated in our children by praising their effort instead of intelligence, and helps them to create a growth mindset.

Even Forbes weighs in on the issue of having a Growth Mindset vs. a Fixed Mindset, and focuses on how early childhood messages can contribute to one or the other.

Ever had a parent or teacher say this to you as a child,” You’re drawing is terrible. You just don’t have math skills. You are not athletic.” They were wrong. Here’s the good news. No matter your current mindset, you can adopt and nurture a growth mindset but you have work to do.

It is much easier to teach kids a growth mindset from a young age, then instilling them with a fixed mindset that they will need to work to change in adulthood.

Learning anything is easier as a child than as an adult.

So, we can help our kids learn things right the first time by helping them create a growth mindset from an early age. This will serve them well for a lifetime.

The earlier that we teach them that they can do better if they try, and that failure just means that they need to try again, the easier they will learn new skills throughout life. It also will help them to be more resilient and persistent as well.


How we talk to our kids matters. It matters a lot. Sometimes, even when we are trying to say something positive, it can end up coming out wrong.

It is important to think about how we are phrasing our compliments, as much as our criticisms. When we learn to praise kids properly, it can help them build a growth mindset that will serve them for years to come!

What do you think? Have you worked with praising your kids efforts? How did it work out for you? Let me know in the comments!

Picture of girl in sunglasses, picture of happy kids.  Text that reads, "Praising kids for qualities besides looks and talent creates a growth mindset."
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