Growth vs. fixed mindset: fostering your child’s growth mindset

Have you heard of the “growth mindset”? Coined by psychologist Carol Dweck, Ph.D., the “growth mindset” is one of the most popular education trends at the moment–and the one you want your child to have. The “fixed mindset” fosters a child’s belief that her/his talents are limited to what s/he was born with, whereas the “growth mindset” fosters a belief that there are no limits to her/his growth and potential, as long as s/he puts in the effort! This is the outlook on life that will bring about success and happiness.

A child with this mindset knows the importance of working hard rather than admitting defeat. The child will put more time and effort into everything s/he does in life, including studies, and bounce back from failure with a can-do attitude!

Many studies show that it is possible to foster a “growth mindset” in children, even if they are already in the “fixed mindset,” so if you want your child to stop mumbling, “What’s the point?” and start dreaming big, check out these tips on pulling the switch!

Praise the right thing

Often, children are told, “Wow, you’re so bright!” or, “You’re a smart kid.” Adults think they are being encouraging and kind by praising children in this way, but they are unintentionally fostering the “fixed mindset.” Children who are often complimented on their intelligence or natural skills become complacent, relying on the gifts they were born with rather than working on strengthening and improving them. They think they are good enough already and will not get any better. The emphasis is on the wrong thing: their natural talent rather than work ethic.
That is why you need to channel your compliments elsewhere–on your child’s effort. If you praise her/his hard work and diligence, s/he will be much more motivated to take on bigger challenges for bigger rewards. Increase high drive by taking note of and encouraging the time your child puts into self-improvement.

Do not say: “You are so smart.”
Do say: “You are such a hard worker!”

Practice the art of constructive criticism

Going off that, you are going to want to perfect the balance of praise and criticism. You do not want to give them too much praise, again promoting complacency, but you do want to note their achievements so they feel pride in how hard they worked and keep up the momentum.
At the same time, you want them to improve, so you have to make sure to give some constructive feedback on their projects, noting what they can do better next time without pointing out flaws. It is all about learning to accept and grow from criticism, not being criticized for where they were lacking.

Do not say,
 “Wow, this project is perfect!” or “This project needs a lot more work.”
Do say, “I love how much time you put into cutting out the letters! I think this looks great, but maybe next time, you could use a brighter color scheme. What do you think?”

Focus on the process rather than results

Every parent wants to see good grades on their child’s report card. That is completely understandable, but should the focus really be on the A’s and plus signs you see? Results are important, and they are the long-term goals in every situation, but this narrow focus solely on results actually fosters a “fixed mindset.” The child becomes afraid of failure and cannot handle the pressure.
Again, the emphasis has to be on the child’s effort, so you are going to want to be all about the process rather than the results. See how the child is doing and the amount of time and effort s/he puts into assignments, projects, sports practices, and more. Comment on that instead. If you focus and appreciate that process, the child will work even harder, brush off failure, and ultimately show the results every parent wants to see!

Do not say, “You got a B? That’s not good enough. You have to get an A.”
Do say, “I know you’ve been working really hard for that A, so I hope you get it next time!”

Put your child first

Many parents believe that comparing their child to others’ is a good way of gauging where their own stands; however, they fail to notice that each child is special and unique in her/his own way–there is no universal standard of comparison.
All that negative comparisons do are point out to a child that s/he is lacking in a certain area and will never be as good as another child, so what is the point of trying? The child may even start to be intimidated by the successes of another, which is an aspect of the “fixed mindset,” instead of inspired, an aspect of the “growth mindset.” On the other hand, if you compare your child by saying s/he is better, this will again foster complacency. The child will feel no need to improve because s/he is already better than others.

Do not say, “Well, Sally from your class got an A, so why can’t you?” or, “No one else can do as well as you in your class!”
Do say, “I think you’re getting the hang of it!” or, “I can see you’re working hard in class!”

Be the example

A child looks up to her/his parents, so it is up to you to be the right role model! This means that you need to foster your own “growth mindset,” so your child will adopt it. Study up on the “growth mindset”.

You see how it says you embrace challenges? When something comes up at work, do not groan and complain in front of your child. Instead, show excitement! Show an eagerness to tackle the challenge, and your child is sure to behave the same way at school. Do not give up easily, or your child will think it is okay for him/her to admit defeat without even trying (We’ve all heard, “But you did it!” before, right?). You may not want to hear your child say your cooking is bad, but you can listen with respect to their constructive criticism to show they should do the same.

Do not say, “Ugh, I will never do all this laundry in time!”
Do say, “Let’s tackle this pile of laundry and see how much we can get done in one hour!”

The “growth mindset” does not bow to defeat–it inspires a karate chop to the face of failure. With the five tips listed here, you can help your child grow fond of working hard and pushing her/his limits. Can you feel your child’s excitement already with this new positive outlook on life and flexible mindset?

JEI Learning is all about building that basic foundation for growth, self-improvement, and education. Do you want extra help with having your child embrace hard work and challenges? Check out our programs and find your local center to enroll your child so s/he can learn from a specialized curriculum at her/his own pace!