What Causes The “Know-It-All” Syndrome… And How To Fix It!

"Ugh, I Already Know That!"

Have you heard your child say this before?

Don't worry. Most of us have, and it's not too late to get it under control.

But first...

Very Few Things Are More Frustrating Than When Your Child Thinks He/She Is An Expert at Everything!  

These are the kids that say “I know” when being offered advice or guidance, that blame others for their mistakes, or attempt to control play with friends (“That’s not how you kick the ball, this is how you do it.”).  

At school, they may have trouble receiving constructive feedback.

If not corrected these children end up being labeled as "know-it-all" kids and "un-coachable athletes".  

The worst part about these kids is that they put themselves in the position to NOT learn. 

What Causes This Type of Behavior?

There is one common theme over the rest...

It’s likely that this child has been over praised.  

When children are young, parents tend to dote on every little accomplishment (eating their first peas, catching a ball, or reading their first book). 

While it’s exciting to watch your child learn and achieve new things, praising too much sets the precedent that they are worthy when they are “right” rather than when they have worked to solve a problem or learn a new skill.

These kids quickly learn to seek out praise and sometimes grow up thinking they should be catered to and accommodated.  Unfortunately, this type of thinking pattern won’t get them far in the “real world.”   

It’s Okay To Compliment But Take It Down A Notch

For instance, instead of praising every correct answer on their homework, focus on your child’s overall effort. If you do so less often, you'll teach your child to be happy about the work he/she did rather than your praise.

Then, when they are at school or with friends, he/she won't be shocked when their knowledge doesn't elicit a big reaction from others. 

On the field (or gym, dance or music studio):  Let the coaches coach and teachers teach!  When a coach or teacher is working with your child to accomplish a task or skill, don’t interfere.  

Undermining a coach or teacher by stepping in can cause the child to disregard their comments and only focus on your praise. 

Let the adult manage the situation and afterwards you can acknowledge the hard work and effort your child was applying.   

Be Cautious With Praising "Intelligence"

We run into trouble when someone’s sense of value comes from how smart they are, especially if “smart” means “right.”  Too much emphasis on intellect can really mess up developing minds. 

As parents it’s on us to convey that being smart doesn’t mean being right, it means wanting to know when you’re wrong.  

Parents of successful kids learn to praise in a way that encourages positive lifelong habits. 

This means praising children for the strategies and processes they use to solve problems, rather than praising them for their innate abilities

Developing a growth mindset is key for success and researcher Carol Dweck has devoted her energy into this topic.  Rather than praising the “smart” or “right” answer, consider praising the process.  

For example:

  • Don't praise a child for getting a high grade on a test; praise him/her for the studying he/she did, which led to the result. 
  • Don't praise for winning a race or a game; instead, offer praise for all the sweat he/she put in during practice--again, which led to the result. 
  • Don't say, "You're so smart!" or "You're such a talented singer!" Instead, you want to find a way to say things like, "You did a great job figuring out that problem," or, "You sound so great--all those hours of practice paid off!" 
  • Encourage your child to focus on a challenge.  Ask the question, “What was a challenge for you today?”  This allows them to develop a growth mindset and to focus on the effort they used.  If a child responds with “Nothing, I did everything right today!” or “There was nothing challenging.” Respond with “It sounds like ___ was too easy for you, let’s find something harder.” 
  • Don’t be afraid to point out something your child can do better or work harder at!  Try, “It looks like you haven’t mastered ____ yet, keep working on it.”  After a game or practice ask, “What do you want to work on for next time?” 

Last But Not Least... He or She May Be Overcompensating

Kids who feel insecure in one area may overdo it in another to make up for what they think they are lacking.  

For instance, if your child is telling a friend how much he knows about race cars (or whatever he is interested in) he may feel like he’s coming up short in another area.  

For instance, maybe his/her friend knows how to ride a bike without training wheels…and your child doesn’t. 

In this case, parents can intervene by telling their child that it is okay for people to have different areas of talent.  

His/her friends may always be better at something than your child is, but this is an okay and even needed experience.  Share some personal examples about different strengths and weakness you’ve experienced. 

To learn more about a growth mindset, consider visiting www.mindsetworks.com

For additional concerns or questions contact Dr. Kristin Rose at DrRose@RoseTherapyCenter.com

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**COVID-19 Impact: Dr. Rose will continue to accept new clients and provide psychological services via teletherapy only until social distancing has ended.