Why Some Kids Try Harder Than Others

Some kids try hard to get what they want, while others refuse to do it. Actually, how parents praise their kids is somehow related to this. Do you want to know why?
Why Some Kids Try Harder Than Others
Mara Amor López

Written and verified by the psychologist Mara Amor López.

Last update: 27 December, 2022

Some kids try harder than others. Even if you raised them in the same way and with the same values, you’ve probably seen one of your children making great effort to get what they want, while others just don’t. Why does this happen? In this article, we’ll tell you why.

Certain children are quite independent form an early age. So, they want to do things on their own, and they try really hard to get what they want. On the contrary, some children are very dependent, and they just live the law of least effort: if they fail at something, they don’t try again.

In this article, we’ll learn the difference between two raised equally, yet different kind of children.

Why some kids try harder than others

Psychologist Carol Dweck has worked for many years on investigations regarding effort, perseverance and motivation in children. Then, she concluded that there are two types of mindsets, depending on the children’s attitudes towards effort:

Why Some Kids Try Harder Than Others
  • Fixed mindset: these are narrow-minded kids, who think that their abilities or skills depend on their innate intelligence, which is impossible to change. They believe that they’re not good at something because they were born that way. So, they don’t try to change that.
  • Growth mindset: these kids believe that if they don’t know something, they’ll learn it in the future. They also think their success will depend on their effort, perseverance and hard work.

To understand these two types of mindsets, we’ll give you an example. When children learn to write, if they try once or twice to write a word and they fail to do so, they’ll think they just don’t have the ability to do it. On the other hand, children who believe in making an effort will continue practicing until they manage to do it.

Characteristics of children that have a fixed mindset

  • They avoid challenges, because they think they won’t be able to meet them.
  • They don’t believe in making an effort to get what they want.
  • For them, every mistake they make means they’ve failed. This is why they can’t learn from them.
  • If someone gives them advice or some constructive feedback, they get defensive.

Characteristics of children that have a growth mindset

  • They believe effort and learning go together. So, they think that by making an effort, they’ll be able to improve their skills.
  • They accept challenges, because they believe they’re necessary. So, they face them instead of running away from them. And, of course, they make an effort to meet them. They’re resilient children.
  • They think mistakes are part of the learning process. When they fail, there’s a chance to learn something new.
  • They accept advice and constructive feedback, because they’re beneficial for their learning process.

Some kids try harder than others, depending on how we praise them

Now it’s time to ask ourselves, why do some kids believe that making an effort will help them get what they want while others don’t? According to Carol Dweck, it’ll depend on how parents, family members, friends, etc., praise children. So, we can talk about two types pf praise:

  • Praise for intelligence or skills: “You’re so smart; you nail it in math; you’re good at everything…”
  • Praise for effort:Nice try; you almost got it; you can do it, you just need to try; you got it because of the effort you made…”

To understand this, Carol Dweck worked with children from 14 months to 8 years old. Those who were praised for effort showed interest in being challenged. And, those who were praised for intelligence didn’t care much about accepting challenges.

Why Some Kids Try Harder Than Others

Can we be praising our children differently without noticing it?

We can examine our conscience and check if we’re praising our children differently. Remember that there’s always time to correct your mistakes.  

Try to start by replacing phrases, such as “Leave it, I’ll do it” for “You should try it” or “See how good you are at it?” for “You’ve done it because of the effort you made, good job.” 

Our minds will be able to change, if we receive the proper praise that’ll help us modify our attitudes towards effort and the way we face life.

Now you know why some kids try harder than others. It’s important that you check the kind of messages you send them with the words you choose to use. We all want to encourage our children to become successful people in the future, but sometimes, we mess it up in the way we do it.

Remember that it’s never too late to correct our mistakes. Choose to praise for effort, instead of praising for intelligence. Compliment their perseverance and motivation to get what they want.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Dweck, C. (2012). Mindset: Changing the way you think to fulfil your potential. Hachette UK.
  • Yeager, D. S., & Dweck, C. S. (2012). Mindsets that promote resilience: When students believe that personal characteristics can be developed. Educational psychologist, 47(4), 302-314.
  • Dweck, C. (2017). Mindset: la actitud del éxito. EDITORIAL SIRIO SA.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.