Mindful Parenting: 5 Phrases to Avoid to Raise Intelligent Children

August 21, 2023 | 


Joanna Newman



Parenting is a powerful role that has a significant influence on a child´s development, including their intellectual growth. The language parents use when communicating with their children can shape their worldview, self-esteem, and learning attitude. In this article, we explore five common phrases that parents are advised to avoid to foster intelligence and positive growth in their children.

1. "You´re so smart!"

The Fixed Mindset Trap

Why It’s Problematic: Constantly labeling your child as smart can lead them to develop a fixed mindset, where they believe their intelligence is innate and unchangeable. This can deter them from taking on challenges that might risk this ´smart´ label.
What to Say Instead: Praise effort and strategies rather than innate ability. Use phrases like, "You worked hard on that!" or "I can see you thought carefully about this."

2. "That’s too hard for you."

Limiting Exploration and Challenge

Why It’s Problematic: Telling a child that something is too hard for them can prematurely limit their willingness to try new things and take on challenges.
What to Say Instead: Encourage a growth mindset with phrases like, "This is a tough one, but I believe you can figure it out with some time and effort," or "Let’s try it together."

3. "Stop asking so many questions."

Curtailing Curiosity

Why It’s Problematic: This phrase can discourage a child´s natural curiosity, which is the foundation of learning and intellectual growth.
What to Say Instead: Encourage their inquisitiveness with, "That’s an interesting question, what do you think?" or "Let’s find out together."

4. "You´re just like [another person]."

Undermining Individuality

Why It’s Problematic: Comparing a child to a sibling, friend, or other relative can lead to identity issues and foster unhealthy competition.
What to Say Instead: Acknowledge and praise the child’s unique qualities: "I admire how you handled that situation," or "Your creativity shines when you do that."

5. "I told you so."

Discouraging Independent Learning

Why It’s Problematic: Saying "I told you so" after a child makes a mistake can feel punitive and may discourage them from taking risks to learn independently.
What to Say Instead: Turn the situation into a learning opportunity with phrases like, "What did you learn from this?" or "What could you do differently next time?"

Conclusion: Fostering a Positive Learning Environment

Raising intelligent children is not solely about enriching their environment with educational materials. It´s also about fostering a positive, encouraging, and nurturing emotional environment. The way parents communicate with their children can have lasting effects on their willingness to learn, take risks, and believe in their capabilities. By being mindful of the language used when speaking with children, parents can set the stage for a lifetime of curiosity, resilience, and intellectual growth.