A new school year is upon us. Some children have returned and others will soon be wearing their thinking caps again. (Actually, I hope these were worn in the summer, too!)

Allow me to share two recommendations to follow now and consistently throughout the year. When you observe your children working on their academics, review their work, and talk about how they’re doing, remember two things:

Talk about which smarts you know your child used when thinking about and completing the work. Don’t let your son think he was lucky and that’s why he did well. Don’t let your daughter think she did well because the assignment was easy.

When they do well, don’t just say, “Good job.” Or, “I knew you could do it.” Affirm their intelligences.

  • “You did well because you are smart and chose to use your brain. That’s why this was easy.”
  • “You’re very logic smart. That’s why you enjoyed completing this science report and did so well.”

When they don’t do well, don’t just communicate your disappointment. Don’t say, “This work is unacceptable.” And, don’t let them think they didn’t do well because the assignment was hard. Instead ask about their smarts. Talk about their smarts.

  • “Which smart didn’t you use that could have helped you more successfully complete your work? Picture or people?”
  • “When working on this assignment, did you remember to decide which smarts to use? Do you want me to remind you what they are and how each part of your brain thinks? Will that help you use your brain better? You are smart!”

Talk about their effort or lack of effort. Perseverance. Diligence. Self-control. Teachability. Humility. Patience. Responsibility. Talk about their character. This can be more important than talking about their smarts. This is how I explain it in my new book, 8 Great Smarts:

  • You don’t want your son relying only on how he is smart when approaching new tasks. He could be unsure of himself that day, overwhelmed, or confused. The assignment could be a bit beyond his natural abilities. It’s easy for children to feel dumb when they believe their smarts have failed them. Your son needs to understand that his successes and challenges are always due to how he is smart plus how he applies himself. Therefore, it’s important to affirm the character qualities and learning processes children use that contribute to their successes.

Always. Always talk about both. From the first day of school to the last our kids benefit when they know we believe success is a matter of the heart and the mind. Character plus the smarts make a powerful combination.