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Health & Parenting

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The Secret to Better Grades

Praise Effort, Not Intellect

Sure, when your child does well on a project or a test, it's tempting to say, "Look how smart you are!" Indeed, surveys say that 85 percent of Americans think telling kids they're smart is good parenting. But the experts say it's much better to acknowledge how hard your child worked. Dweck conducted research that revealed that praising kids' intelligence rather than their efforts can make them fear mistakes. They may shun future challenges to avoid messing up and looking "dumb." Shifting the focus from labels ("you're a genius") to the thrill of meeting a challenge ("you worked really hard on that") can help give them the freedom they need in order to excel. "Many students think trying hard is only for the inept. Yet sustained effort over time is the key to achievement," Dweck says.

This same principle can be applied when your child is really struggling with a tough topic; parents should let children know they're doing a terrific job within their own capabilities. Says Erica Remer, mother of top speller Scott: "Kids need to learn that just because they're doing something challenging doesn't mean they should give it up immediately." So reward hard work and earnest effort with the same praise, "Good job!" stickers, and the other reinforcements you'd dole out for a stellar report card.

Isha Jain, 17, a Siemens Competition in Math, Science and Technology winner this year, says she's so self-motivated because her parents taught her that hard work is its own reward. "That'll definitely help me in the future, because real life isn't based on getting a 4.0," she says, summing it up nicely. "It's the attitude that counts."

Could Your Kid Be a Whiz?

If your child dazzles you with her intellectual efforts, you might want to see if she qualifies for one of America's top talent-search programs. Four major U.S. universities offer these testing and enrichment programs. They help millions of kids — from kindergarten through 12th grade — determine how advanced their abilities really are, and they provide kids with resources such as online classes and academic-year and summer enrichment and acceleration programs. There are fees associated with most services, but financial aid is available. For more information, log on to whichever of the following Websites covers the region in which you live:

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