The key secret to raising successful kids is a successful process

HINT: Don’t tell your kids that they are. More than three decades of research shows that a focus on “process”—not on intelligence or ability—is key to success in school and in life

The Student Success Project is driven by the staunch belief that students “just can’t be successful because they want to be” or they were “just born” that way.

We want to teach our kids everything there is to know about everything in the world just so they can be successful. We even hire tutors, coaches, mentors to help us out. However, one minor detail is missing – we neglect to teach them HOW – to become successful. The Student Success Project gives students very non-traditional tools needed to get it done for the most part on their own.

Our society worships talent, and many people assume that possessing superior intelligence or ability—along with confidence in that ability—is the recipe for success. In fact, however, more than 35 years of scientific investigation suggests that an overemphasis on intellect or talent leaves people vulnerable to failure, fearful of challenges and unwilling to remedy their shortcomings.

The result plays out in students who coast through the early grades under the dangerous notion that no-effort academic achievement defines them as smart or gifted.

Such children hold an implicit belief that intelligence is innate and fixed, making striving to learn seem far less important than being (or looking) smart. This belief also makes them see challenges, mistakes and even the need to exert effort as threats to their ego rather than as opportunities to improve. And it causes them to lose confidence and motivation when the work is no longer easy for them.

However, studies show that teaching students to have a “growth mind-set,” which encourages a focus on “process” (consisting of personal effort and effective strategies) rather than on intelligence or talent, helps make them into high achievers in school and in life.

Students with such a growth mind-set, are for destined for greater academic success and were quite likely to outperform their counterparts.

Growth mind-set drives your kids to understand that learning is a more important goal in school than getting good grades. In addition, they held hard work in high regard, believing that the more you labored at something, the better you would become at it.

They begin to understand that even geniuses have to work hard for their great accomplishments. Confronted by a setback such as a disappointing test grade, students with a growth mind-set said they would study harder or try a different strategy for mastering the material.

Although all the students cared about grades, the ones who earned the best grades were those who placed a high premium on learning the process of success rather than just assuming they will be. The focus on learning success strategies, effort and persistence paid off for these students.

Although many, if not most, parents believe that they should build up children by telling them how brilliant and talented they are, most research suggests that this is misguided.

Some parents believe that praising children’s ability or intelligence when they perform well is important for making them feeling successful. No—praising a child’s successfulness makes a child fragile and defensive. Praise can be very valuable, however, if it is carefully worded.

Such process praise may involve commending effort, strategies, focus, persistence in the face of difficulty, and willingness to take on challenges.

So yes, there is rhyme to success’ reason.

This column is by Ritchie Lucas, founder of The Student Success Project and previously Think Factory Marketing. He can be reached at 305-788-4105 or via email at, and on Facebook and YouTube as The Student Success Project.

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