If you read Monday’s blog about helping children develop a healthy intellectual identity, I predict you weren’t surprised by the number of groups of teens who admitted they wanted to be smart. You might think they were influenced by the fact that I’m the “8 great smarts” lady, but I don’t think so. If you had asked, I believe they would have prioritized “smart,” too.

Why is “smart” something they want to be? For many years, I’ve referred to the word as a “power word.” Everyone wants to be smart.

Certainly, the present is a factor. Being smart just makes school easier and more pleasant. Some of these teens have parents they want to please who have probably told them being smart matters.

The future is a factor. Children inherently know that being smart increases education and career options.

I think the past has influenced them, too. When they were little, relatives and friends told them they were smart and had done a “good job” on any number of tasks. Parents clapped when they successfully repeated important behaviors and skills. These children, now teens, figured out that it mattered to figure things out.

Doing things well also made them feel good inside. Teens want to keep experiencing that feeling.

Ask your kids about being smart. Does it matter to them? Why?

A caution about screens: When I was a child, my parents interacted with me as I was learning. When my nieces and nephew were young, I interacted with them. Smiles on our faces, joy in our voices, and the applause of our hands communicated “well done” and “you are smart.”

When they were playing, learning to read, coloring, and the like, we probably said things like,

Way to go. That was easy for you!

I knew you could do it. You’re smart!

I love your creativity! That’s a beautiful drawing.

You built a lot of cool things with your blocks. You’re very good at that!

Because we were there, they learned what we valued.

If children are allowed to isolate with an app on a device in order to experience and learn things that we used to do with others, they may not receive any supportive messages at all. Research suggests they won’t retain the learning because they’re not interacting with people. Let’s be concerned. Let’s put screens down and interact. It will help them be smart and help them set goals like, “I want to be smart!”