Fostering A Growth Mindset In Children
Raising children can be difficult, and the pressure is on us to help our children be the best they can be. Too often, we might find ourselves jumping in to help the child accomplish something even though (with a little effort) they may be able to do it themselves. You might be thinking that jumping in and rescuing your child works for you. For instance, opening up the granola bar wrapper is relatively easy for you — but might take quite a bit of effort from your child. The child might whine or become frustrated when they cannot immediately open the wrapper. In the long run, our children need to be able to persevere, to fail and try again, to be disappointed and to put in the hard work.
Fixed Mindset vs. Growth Mindset
Dr. Carol Dweck is a researcher at Stanford University. According to Dweck, there are two types of mindsets — a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. In a fixed mindset, people believe their qualities are fixed traits and, therefore, cannot change. These people document their intelligence and talents rather than working to develop and improve them. They also believe talent alone leads to success, and effort is not required. Alternatively, in a growth mindset, people have an underlying belief their learning and intelligence can grow with time and experience. When people believe they can get smarter, they realize their effort has an effect on their success, so they put in extra time, leading to higher achievement.
Dweck has found that mindsets can change, and when a mindset changes, learners do better.
How To Foster a Growth Mindset in Children
1. Help children understand that the brain works like a muscle, that can only grow through hard work, determination, and lots and lots of practice.
2. Don’t tell students they are smart, gifted, or talented since this implies that they were born with the knowledge, and does not encourage effort and growth.
3. Let children know when they demonstrate a growth mindset.
4. Praise the process. It takes effort, hard work, and practice that allow children to achieve their true potential. Consider the language you are using with children. Words have meaning and communicate an important message to the receiver. The language we use tells others what to believe and what we think of them. Example, instead of saying, “It’s not that hard;” say, “You can do hard things.”
5. Don’t praise the results. Test scores and rigid ways of measuring learning and knowledge limit the growth that would otherwise be tapped.
6. Embrace failures and missteps. Children sometimes learn the most when they fail. Let them know that mistakes are a big part of the learning process. There is nothing like the feeling of struggling through a very difficult problem, only to finally break through and solve it! The harder the problem, the more satisfying it is to find the solution.
Remind children disappointment, setbacks and making mistakes are a part of growing up. Focus on effort by saying, “I like how you tried a new way to solve that.”
7. Encourage participation and collaborative group learning. Children learn best when they are immersed in a topic and allowed to discuss and advance with their peers.
8. Encourage competency-based learning. Get kids excited about subject matter by explaining why it is important and how it will help them in the future. The goal should never be to get the ‘correct’ answer but to understand the topic at a fundamental, deep level, and want to learn more.
9. Encourage and model positive self-talk. If you notice your child being critical of themselves, ask them what they would say to a friend who is in a similar situation. Explain to the child it is important to treat ourselves with the same care and respect we treat others. It is small, but when a child tells you something (they cannot tie their shoes), add “yet” to the end of their statement. “You cannot tie your shoes, yet.”
In Conclusion: Fostering a Growth Mindset is Critical
Studies suggest that growth mindsets counter the fight-or-flight response, helping us to view social problems as challenges. This helps us to adapt, change, and grow—the chief characteristics of resilience. When we promote the belief that people truly have the potential to change, we free up ourselves and others to actually do that. Overall, fostering a growth mindset in a child’s early years are critical.
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