ATTENTION PARENTS: Proper Praise is Important for Your Child’s Success

All good parents want their children to grow up to be healthy and happy.

While you might think it’s a good idea to praise your children, if you’re not doing it in just the right way, you could be hurting their ability to succeed in life.

In this article, I’m going to share with you the science behind praise and a strategy for how to praise your child in a way that helps strengthen their confidence, optimism, and potential for greater success in life.

How Do You Praise Now?

When your child does something well, do you ever find yourself saying, “What a Good Boy!” or, “That’s a good girl!” or, “You sure are smart!”?

I know I have. But this type of praise could be doing more harm than good.

Dr. Carol Dweck is one of the world’s leading researchers in the field of motivation and is a Professor of Psychology at Stanford University. Her research has focused on why people succeed and how to foster success.

Her research has led to an impactful book she wrote called MINDSET – The New Psychology of Success.

Understanding the difference between what Carol Dweck calls the ‘Fixed’ mindset and ‘Growth’ mindset will help you immunize your child from developing a way of thinking about themselves that could limit their ability to live a happy, passionate, and fulfilling life.

The Fixed and the Growth mindsets are both shaped by a person’s beliefs around their ability to succeed.


The Fixed Mindset has a person believing that their power to succeed rests within what they think of as their fixed traits. These are things they believe they are born with and cannot change – like their talents or intelligence.

The Fixed Mindset = You believe you ARE your abilities and you are stuck with what you have.

It’s an ‘all or nothing’ view of life and, in challenging situations, can lead to feelings of helplessness and hopelessness – the very foundation of Depression.

The ATTITUDE of the Fixed Mindset

With a Fixed Mindset, hard work is perceived as threatening because, if you have to work hard at something, you must not be good enough. If you were good enough, the task would be easy for you. The tendency here is to avoid hard work and effort because it makes you feel inadequate and strengthens your pain of self-doubt.

For this same reason, you feel afraid to make mistakes and you avoid challenging situations.

You seek the easy way out because it helps maintain the appearance that you are good enough – which you need in order to keep your self-doubt at bay and maintain some level of self-esteem. Your main intention here is to LOOK good because, given the background presence of your self-doubt, you don’t believe that actually BEING good is an available option for you.

For a child with the fixed mindset, school isn’t about learning, it’s about getting the right answer. If a child is afraid to appear inadequate, he’ll happily cheat on a test rather than put the effort into studying. Studying, after all, is hard work and emotionally interpreted as a sign they’re inadequate.

For the fixed mindset, the focus is all upon the destination. The journey sucks.


The belief governing the Growth Mindset is that your power to succeed rests in your ABILITIES, which are malleable and ever-changing. Your abilities can and do change constantly with effort and practice.

Growth Mindset = You believe that you are the DEVELOPER of your abilities and you can upgrade them at any time.

The ATTITUDE of the Growth Mindset

With the Growth Mindset, hard work and effort are not only necessary, but also fun and exciting because these are what increase your ability to succeed at anything. The process of putting effort into a task is the process of growing your ability to succeed. You enjoy challenge …because it strengthens your abilities and gives you even more potential for creating wealth and freedom. You see every mistake as a valuable piece of information that teaches you where your attention needs to be. You know your power to succeed in Life gets stronger with each mistake; each challenge, and so you enjoy the journey. You love growing and learning.


Your kids trust your opinion of them and will believe what you tell them. Your words contribute to the formation of many of their beliefs about themselves. These beliefs determine their ability to succeed.

When you praise their intelligence by saying, “Wow. You sure are smart at this!”, you are making them believe that their ability to succeed in life comes from something they have no control over – something fixed within them. This does not give them any healthy way to deal with failure.

However, when you praise your child’s effort by saying, “Wow. You worked really hard at that! You did a good job. I’m really proud of the effort you put into that!”, you are helping your child to believe that their power to succeed comes from what they DO and the actions they take. This is something that they can change at any time and it places their power to succeed within their control. This leads to confidence and the ability to deal with failure in a healthy way. When failure happens, it’s perceived as the result of an inadequate action NOT an inadequate person.


You have the power to set your child up for a life of confidence in their own ability to succeed by praising them properly.


When your child succeeds at something or does something well, praise their EFFORT.

Do NOT praise their personality (identity) or intelligence.

Some examples are:

Don’t say: “I am proud of you.” (‘fixed’ praise)

Do Say: “I am proud of all the effort you put into learning how to do that. Good work!” (‘growth’ praise)

Don’t say: “That’s a good boy/girl! You sure are smart.” (‘fixed’ praise)

Do Say: “That’s really good work. You learned to do that very well.” (‘growth’ praise)

The emphasis is on the action/effort, not the person. You guide your child’s focus by what you say.

Be mindful that your praise is guiding your child’s focus toward their actions and not themselves.

BONUS STRATEGY – for yourself

If you want to heal yourself of a fixed mindset, remind yourself consistently of the following:

You are NOT your abilities – you are the DEVELOPER of your abilities.

Your success or failure is not about YOU, it’s about the actions you’ve taken so far.

You can always take new actions and change your life.

The more effort (action) you put into positive change, the more your life positively changes.

Enjoy the journey.

Your brain is always changing and growing no matter how old you are. This is proven by the science of neuro-plasticity – the science that studies how you can use your mind to change the structure of your brain. Focus on the fact that you can LEARN to do anything and set yourself free!

If you’d like to learn more about this subject, you can get the book MINDSET by Carol Dweck PhD by CLICKING HERE.

Thank you for reading.

© 2014 Trent Janisch –

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