If you haven’t heard of Carol Dweck’s, she is the Lewis and Virginia Eaton Professor of Psychology at Stanford University that is revolutionizing how we think about learning. Her research into the link between mindset and achievement is a game changer. Her book entitled, Mindset, contests the notion that intelligence is a fixed state. In fact, she insists that with the right growth mindset, anyone can actually train their brain to become smarter!
Carol encourages us to think about our brains as a muscle, and just like any other muscle in the body, it needs to work to get stronger. The more we seek to challenge ourselves and explore the outer edges of our curiosity, the greater the capacity of our skills and abilities.
This is called a Growth Mindset.
Having a growth mindset means that you approach the world as a puzzle to be solved. You understand that learning is never complete. Instead of seeking praise for your accomplishments, you are curious about how you could still improve. Steve Jobs was a great example of this. He focused his energy on the endless possibilities of technology rather than limiting himself to what already exists. Carol’s research shows that those who display a growth mindset continue to grow and to thrive, while those in a fixed mindset often limit themselves only to what they are good at.
So what does this mean for parents? Below are five practical tips for fostering a growth mindset in children.
1. Lead by Example:Many of us have a fixed mindset about something in our life, and it is important for us as parents to challenge ourselves as much as we seek to challenge our kids. If they see us tackle our own problems as a challenge to be solved, they’ll learn to do the same. Conversely if they see us lash out and blame others for our own failures, they will learn to think that they are not in control of their destiny and that life is nothing more than the roll of the dice.
2. Call off the rescue mission!: As parents, all we want to do is protect our children from life’s hurts and disappointments. Unfortunately, when we constantly bail them out of difficult situations caused by their own poor choices, they never gain the opportunity to develop their own coping strategies to manage setbacks. It’s time to land the helicopter.
3. Failure is a good thing! : Without a sense of failure, we would never be motivated to learn anything new. If everything came easy to us, life would be incredibly boring. We can all remember a time in our life where we worked really hard on something and it paid off. Few of us can recall the time we got an A on an assignment that came easy to us. This is because the reward is actually in the hard work (and the struggle). Children need to learn that it’s okay to make a mistake. In fact, it’s a necessary part of the learning process.
4. Change your vocabulary: Henry Ford once said, “Whether you think you can or you think you can’t, either way you’re right!” Instead of “I can’t…” “I’m bored…” “I give up…” it’s important to teach children to approach difficult tasks with “I can…” “What am I missing?” “What strategies have I learned before that could help me now?” The words we choose are a powerful indicator of the type of mindset we carry with us through life.
5. The Power of Yet:Instead of dwelling on their shortcomings, children need to learn to identify the next steps to greater achievement. It’s not that they don’t understand something…it’s that they don’t understand something yet! Next time your child comes home with a bad grade, instead of focusing on all the things that went wrong, focus your energy on the next steps they can take to improve their skills. Do they need to study more? Develop strategies to cope with test anxiety? Put in more effort? Whatever it is, teach them to learn from their mistakes and move on. The learning that comes as a result of the grade is much more valuable than the grade itself.
Teaching your children about a growth mindset will not only improve their intellectual reasoning but also their perseverance, commitment, and engagement in learning. This is the stuff that separates the good from the greats!
I would love to hear your thoughts on this! Leave a comment below!
If you’re interested – this is an awesome you tube video called “The Power of Belief” that explains this concept beautifully. Watch it as a family!
The Good Enuf Mommy