What does it mean when you say, “You’re so smart!”? Are you telling someone they’re intelligent, clever, cunning, observant, ‘book’ smart, ‘street’ smart, adept, sharply painful?
What does your child hear if you say it to them? “Mom loves me be because I’m smart.”
How about if you tell your child, “You’re so cute!” or “You’re funny!”?
When we offer praise to a child we’re putting emphasis on a trait that we appreciate. Of course, we think our children are smart, cute, and funny, but what we really need to say are things like, “Wow! I really like how you worked on that puzzle to figure it out.” Being specific teaches them about what it is that we like and value.
Do we really want our child to grow up thinking that we value them for being ‘cute’?