Saturday, March 7, 2015

Do you tell your kids they're smart?


One of the many, many, many (too many) parenting theories that have besieged my consciousness via the internet and books and judgey mommy conversations is this:  if you want your kids to succeed, you should praise their effort, not their ability. ("Good job!" vs. "You're so smart!") I take every parenting theory with a massive grain of salt, but this one is growing on me.

As a lifelong "smart girl," I know it can be a bit of a burden. I've never liked doing things that might make me look dumb (which includes basically anything new) because it threatens my very identity.

I'm not blaming my failures on the fact that my parents told me I'm smart, because my parents are the best, and because that would be an embarrassingly first-world complaintand mostly because my "smart girl" identity was shaped by so many influences, including pop culture and teachers and friends and my own damn self. (Recent related epiphany: of the dozens of people from my MFA class who have published novels and memoirs and story collections, none are among the students who were most vocally praised as "talented" by our professors). But I would like to do what I can, anyway, to make sure Maisie feels free to explore and experiment and be dumb.

What do you think of this theory, Elvis? You seem like a man who sees himself as smart, but it certainly hasn't held you back at all. Maybe if a person has the "smart identity" but is actually really REALLY smart, like genius-level smart, they don't have to carry the baggage. In which case I don't have to worry about Maisie because she's obviously a genius.

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