Clinton, campaigning for her mother, told about 300 people at Duke University that former President Clinton didn't have a complete grasp of the inner workings of Congress when he took office in 1993.
The former first daughter said her mother will benefit from her time as a New York senator.
Chelsea Clinton said her mother stands her ground on issues but knows how to work with Republicans. And that, she said, will help her mother navigate challenges and fulfill her campaign promises.
"I think that she'll be a better president because she'll be more progressive and she's more prepared," Clinton said. "She'll just hit the ground running from Day One in a way that my father was not as equipped to do."
Bill Clinton served as Arkansas' attorney general and then as governor before seeking the presidency.
In her appearance at Duke, Chelsea Clinton was asked by one student whether voters should consider how her mother responded to Bill Clinton's affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky when making judgments about her character.
"I agree that character is very important," Clinton said. "But when I think about character for a public official, I think about how people respond to both successes and failures in their public lives."
Clinton said she defines her mother's character by issues such as health care reform, and how her failed reform efforts early in her husband's presidency didn't stop her from continuing to pursue the issue.
"You don't seem very happy with that answer," Clinton told the student who asked the question. "But it really matters to me that out of her efforts from the 1990s came the children's health insurance program."