Encouraging a Growth Mindset in You & Your Child
Our previous blog about the power of YET discussed two different mindsets, Fixed & Growth, and what impacts it can have on your child. This time, we go into a few ways that you, as a parent, can encourage a growth mindset in your child. Before we get to that, here is a quick recap on fixed & growth mindsets from Nigel Holmes.
So now that you understand the difference between the mindsets, how can you encourage your child to have a growth mindset? It’s difficult enough to change our own thought processes let alone our kids but by understanding ourselves better and developing positive behaviours and habits, we can help our children understand themselves and appreciate the process as well as the accomplishment.
View the brain as a muscle
Remind your child that their intelligence isn’t fixed. They can work out their brain just like they work out their bodies. The more they learn, the more they train their brain to think a certain way. Thanks to neuroplasticity, their brain is continually building new connections each time they learn something new and experience something different. Be open to the idea of training and retraining your brain and encourage your child to do the same because the world is constantly changing and we can change with it.
Different words, different mindset
Help your child by changing the words you both use. Listen to your child’s self-talk. The way they talk to themselves impacts their mindset. Here are a few phrases they may say and what they can say instead.
“I’m not good at this”
“I’m not good at this YET, but I will learn”
“This is too hard!”
“I can do this with hard work and finding the right strategy”
“I can’t do this”
“I need feedback and help from others”
“I won’t try because I’m going to fail”
“If I fail, I can try again until I succeed”
“I’m great at this”
“I practiced and learned how to do this”
When our mindset is fixed, we tend to focus more on the result than the process and praise accomplishments with broad statements like “you’re so smart”. By shifting praise to the specific actions involved – the hard work, planning, persistence, problem-solving etc. – we show kids that with the right behaviours, they can achieve goals that they set. Acknowledging their effort, persistence, creativity, etc., encourages them to continue those positive behaviours and grow rather than making them feel like they’ve reached their end goal and that the job is done.
It’s about the journey…
If we focus only on the end goal, we have tunnel vision that frequently measures progress and we become consumed by the goal. Measuring progress too frequently doesn’t provide the feedback necessary to grow and understand the steps needed to reproduce any positive results we may see. We also end up wasting more energy on measuring and worrying about the end goal instead of taking positive actions. Process goals focus on what can be controlled and keep the bigger picture in view. It’s about maintaining sustainable, positive habits knowing that consistent effort will ultimately succeed.
Using literacy as an example, instead of focusing on reading a full chapter book as an end result, and constantly worrying about not being able to do it, have your child focus on the sustainable process of reading for a certain amount of time each night. This way, they develop a positive habit that they can easily repeat and instead of stressing about getting to a certain milestone, they can pay attention to their learning. They can take the time to make mistakes and understand new words. You can help them understand how this habit helps them by talking about what they’ve read and talking about any mistakes they made and any difficulties they had.
To err is human
Embracing mistakes and challenges is fundamental in a growth mindset. If you remember that the brain is growing and building connections with each new situation and experience it faces, it’s easier to see mistakes and challenges as opportunities to develop. A fixed mindset will see a mistake as a failure or a challenge as too hard but using the language of a growth mindset, we can accept the mistake, learn from it, and use it to find a strategy that works. This incorporates mistakes into the process that leads to eventual success and helps children develop coping strategies to better handle future mistakes and challenges by teaching them to persevere. Encourage your child to identify mistakes as a step in the learning process and, more importantly, don’t freak out when they do. As parents, we want to protect our children and save them from failing but intervening is potentially interrupting their learning.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
Essentially, our habits and outlook shape our mindset. If we disrupt our fixed mindset and the beliefs it entails, we can change how we and our children define success and the path to it. Encouraging a growth mindset in our children starts with teaching them that their brain can grow and understanding that the world isn’t about can or cannot. It’s about consistent development. When people believe they can get smarter, they realize that their effort has an effect on their success, they put in extra time and can achieve more.