Does your child want to quit a new sport or activity as soon as they aren’t performing well? Do they struggle to overcome adversity? Are they immediately turned off from school work when they hit a roadblock? If you see this in your child, it could be because they are viewing the world through a fixed mindset. They are seeing the skill or ability as something they “just aren’t good at” rather than something they could “work hard to figure out.”
Research shows that some people see their intelligence or skills as something unchangeable. They either are or aren’t good at math, lay ups, reading, dancing, etc. This is called a “fixed” mindset. Others have a different view of themselves, they see themselves as changeable and able to grow their abilities with effort over time. This is called a “growth” mindset.
Children believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb.
Children understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.
Having a growth mindset is proven to support kids’ current and future success in academics, in relationships, and even in their careers later in life. It also helps children to be resilient. This means that when the hard stuff in life creeps in (and it will, we all know that) they are better able to adapt, problem solve, and grow with the process. This is important stuff!
“We can all agree that meaningful schoolwork promotes students’ learning of academic content. But why stop there? I believe that meaningful work can also teach students to love challenges, to enjoy effort, to be resilient, and to value their own improvement. In other words, we can design and present learning tasks in a way that helps students develop a growth mindset, which leads to not just short-term achievement but also long-term success.” — Dr. Carol Dweck
So, as parents, how can we support the development of a growth mindset in our children?
It really comes down to the way we praise our kids. We all know that praise is important, but framing our praise in a certain way can help our kids’ lifelong learning and growth. Let’s pretend your child has continually received 10/10 on their spelling tests with little effort. You are undoubtedly really proud of your little person, so you’ve praised them with “Wow! You are so smart!” However, the words are starting to get harder, and your little person is no longer getting 10/10 on their tests. If they view being smart as an innate and fixed trait, they may be starting to doubt their abilities and become quite frustrated. What’s more, they may lose interest in learning altogether. However, if you focus on the effort and work they put in, continually praising them with phrases like “wow you must really pay attention in class” or “you must really focus during your tests” or “I can see that you really work hard during class time,” then they can see the tools they need to improve their spelling scores are readily available to them (focus, attention, hard work). This type of praise supports the development of a growth mindset.
It’s really just a matter of say this, not that. So here’s a few examples to use to help your kids develop a growth mindset:
Say this: “It seems like it’s time to try a new strategy” because it lets your kids know that they control outcomes by making choices.
Not this: “It’s OK, maybe you’re just not cut out for this” because it makes your kid think they don’t have the capacity to improve.
Say this: “It looks like that was too easy for you. Let’s find you something challenging so your brain can grow” because it teaches kids that learning should be challenging, and if tasks are too easy then your brain isn’t growing.
Not this: “That’s right! You did that so quickly and easily; great job!” because praising tasks completed without much effort paints effort in a negative light and encourages a fixed mindset.
For more examples see mindsetworks.com/parents/growth-mindset-parenting
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