50 things to say to a kid instead of Aren’t you clever? Don’t you look pretty? No. Don’t. Stop that.

As a kid, I was often told “you’re so clever”. It was a reflection, in my more seasoned opinion, of how much my mom wanted to be intellectually valued and appreciated by the world around her. But it’s taken me 40 years to parse that. Back then, it was a phrase that became a kind of dog treat that you are tossed for good behaviour and that you begin to crave.

Most experts in child development and “grit” agree it’s not a good thing to tell a kid… it handicaps them from experimenting, from failing, from looking or feeling dumb, which is how we all feel when we’re starting out something new.

“Don’t you look pretty” is also one of those seemingly harmless statements, that I think loads kids with a ton of cultural baggage, teaching them their value is in their looks, and appearance, and ability to please.

“No” and “don’t” are probably pretty worn out, too.

It’s all well and good, though, to be told what not to say. It’s harder to know what TO SAY, which is why I screenshot this the moment I saw it pop up on one of my social media feeds.

#8 reminded me of Brene Brown’s contention that it’s okay to show a kid a thumbs-down, if they haven’t nailed a particular skill. (If you missed the video last month, check it out here.)


What do you think? Can you remember a time someone said something encouraging to you? How it felt? Man, I feel warm and fuzzy just imagining someone saying these things to me now!

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