March 03, 2018

Compliments For Kids: 63 Alternatives to saying “You’re So Smart”

Why You Should NOT Say “You’re So Smart”

When people are told how smart they are all the time, they tend to develop the mindset that they’re smart. They also develop a vulnerability around relinquishing that label.

Believe it or not, but there is a huge difference between telling your kid “you’re so smart” and “you did a great job.” Why? Because when you say “you’re so smart”, you’re praising the person. When you say “you did a great job,” you’re praising the process.

Praise The Process, Not The Person

When you praise the process, you encourage a growth mindset. When you’re constantly telling your kid how smart they are, you may enforce the idea that intelligence comes naturally to them. This can backfire in a big way because they might believe that achievement doesn’t actually require any work on their part – that “smarts” come naturally to them.

There is a growing movement of education and parenting experts, who believe the word “smart” is toxic. They are pushing the movement to completely get rid of “the S word”.  They say that we should instead focus on rewarding hard work and helping our children cope with failures, and finding a new approach to something they are struggling with.

Can you imagine the mindset of a kid, who inevitable mistakes, after they’ve been told continuously how smart they are? They may freak out and bit, and think “people are going to think I’m not so smart after all.” With that fear of failure, they may become especially averse to making mistakes. But, it is through mistakes that our brains grow – this according to Stanford University Professor, Jo Boaler – author of “What’s Math Got to Do with It? – How Teachers and Parents Can Transform Mathematics Learning and Inspire Success.

The mindset to instead foster is one where your child understand that they have to work hard to achieve their goals. By doing this, they’ll be more well-rounded and intelligent overall.

This is not hard to do. It’s just a matter of changing the words you are using when you speak to them.

There are several great tips to follow to give your child an intellectual advantage – most of them are super easy too. But it’s ironic – if you want your kids to be smart kids – don’t tell them they’re smart. Instead, say…

  1. I felt proud when you did ____________.
  2. I’ve noticed how hard you’ve been trying.
  3. What a creative way to solve that problem!
  4. You are not afraid of a challenge! I like that.
  5. I love how you took ownership of that!
  6. Your creativity is inspiring.
  7. I can tell you put a lot of thought into that. Great job!
  8. You tried really hard on that.
  9. Your hard work makes your teachers proud.
  10. You’re a great role model.
  11. That problem was really tricky, but you persisted and you figured it out.
  12. That was a very responsible thing you did.
  13. You never game up, even when it was hard.
  14. I like the way you are doing ____________.
  15. You have such a positive attitude.
  16. I can tell you tried your very best because ____________.
  17. I admire the way you do _______________.
  18. You remembered to _______________. Well done!
  19. That’s brave. Your willingness to take risks really paid off.
  20. That must have been a hard choice to make. You have a lot of integrity.
  21. You should share your idea with _______. He/she might find it helpful.
  22. You are one of the most reflective people I know.
  23. You really handled the situation well because _____________.
  24. I know I can trust you because ______________.
  25. I can tell you worked hard in your group today because __________.
  26. Your practice is really paying off.
  27. I can tell you worked very hard.
  28. You have really improved on ____________.
  29. I appreciate how helpful you are when you ______________.
  30. It is really nice that you value other people’s opinions.
  31. You really motivated everyone when you ____________.
  32. It was brave of you to ________________.
  33. I am so proud of that choice you made.
  34. You did a great job participating in ________________.
  35. What a creative solution to that problem!
  36. Thank you for teaching me something new.
  37. I’m lucky to have such a kind child/ student.
  38. I value your ideas.
  39. I admire your patience.
  40. I noticed how prepared you were for ______________.
  41. You work very well with others.
  42. It takes a real leader to do what you just did. I know others are inspired by your actions.
  43. I can tell you’re a great team player because _____________.
  44. I noticed how you helped with ________________. Thank you.
  45. What a great friend you are!
  46. You have become a great role model. I see how _______ look up to you.
  47. You’ve revised your thinking and your work here. That shows how much you’ve learned.
  48. Thank you for recognizing _____’s point of view.
  49. You are very detail-oriented. I can always tell which pieces are yours.
  50. You’ve really mastered _______. Please share your thoughts and process.
  51. You have taken great care of your ____________. Well done.
  52. I know you’ve been working hard on _______, and this is where I see you succeeding.
  53. You seemed overwhelmed by _______ but you worked hard and succeeded.
  54. Your hard work is inspiring to us all.
  55. I never thought about it that way. Thanks for pointing that out to me.
  56. That situation must have frustrated you. I’m impressed by how well you managed your emotions.
  57. I admire the time you invested in learning __________
  58. You’re an active listening. I appreciate that.
  59. You are so tenacious. That perseverance is really paying off.
  60. I heard you talking to _______. You know just how to encourage people.
  61. Your effort hasn’t gone unnoticed and I appreciate it.
  62. You’re not afraid to try. I admire that.
  63. Your willingness to try is admirable.

don't say you're so smart

I trust you enjoyed this post about smart kids, and what to say to our children instead of “you’re so smart”.

I did extensive reading on this subject and quite a bit of research to find as many examples as possible, but if I missed any, feel free to let me know in the comments. I’ll be happy to add them.

Gioula Chelten