Conscientious parents want to do what is right for their kids. After all, we all want our children to not just get by when they grow up but also to be successful in what they set their minds to do. For this to happen, we need to help them develop the proper mindset while they are still young.
The mindset that I'm referring to is called growth mindset, which determines if someone can thrive. The term was coined by developmental psychologist Carol S. Dweck to refer to the underlying belief that hard work, training, and persistence open the way for people to reach their objectives. In her work about the mindset psychological trait, she said that kids with a growth mindset are more likely to cope with challenges and difficulties.
When our children develop a growth mindset, they will take setbacks or failures positively. They would know that learning from their experience is how they can improve themselves. They will be able to accept that people have different talents and if they work hard, they can improve theirs.
Along with this, the Stanford University professor also named another type of belief. Called fixed mindset, it is when a person believes that success is dictated by one's innate abilities and talents. A child who does not overcome this kind of mindset will think that any kind of setback or failure is because of their lack of ability, talent, and intelligence.
For instance, when a child says, "I'm no good at sports/math/arts," then he or she has established a belief that being good at the subject or skill depends on one's ability – one that is set and unchangeable – which they think they are lacking. In other words, the kid has a fixed mindset and has already given up on the possibility of learning and improving.
On the other hand, if the child learns to say, "I'm not yet good at sports/math/arts" or "If I practice more, then I'll learn how to do it better," then he or she opens the way for improvement. The kid is willing to put in some effort to achieve success.
There are many reasons why our kids need to develop a growth mindset. Let us look at three of them:
To quote a quick example, Kodak had 170,000 employees in 1998 and sold 85 percent of all photo paper worldwide, but in just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt.
At the speed the world is changing, the future is becoming more and more unpredictable. We all have to be equipped with the right attitudes and frame of mind so that we can keep up with – or move ahead of – the world's exponential change.
To put it simply, kids need to develop a growth mindset in order to cope. In the same way that we do things differently from how people did them a couple or so decades ago, so our kids and grandkids will do things differently from us.
Kids, more than ever, need to be able to cope with the changes that will happen in their lifetime by believing that they can improve their talents, abilities, and intelligence through effort and hard work. The kind of mindset they have can influence their chances of achievement – if they believe they can grow and learn, they will have more positive attitude towards success and failure.
Both kids and adults can learn just about anything we want. It is not only because we can now easily find information on the internet but also because humans have a basic instinct to grow and improve. We want to discover, learn, and find out about things. We get dissatisfied when there is no change or improvement in our lives.
At the same time, though, we also have an inclination to resist change. And a lot of times, this resistance to change is the result of us being fearful. We like to hold on to what's familiar and comfortable because we are afraid of the uncertainty that change is going to result in.
Kids with a growth mindset will confidently strive for improvement and achieve the best they can be. Like other people in the world, they will have fear, they will have doubts, but it's the belief that they can conquer all these fears and doubts through taking action that matters most.
Children with a growth mindset know that with hard work and persistence, they will keep on improving until they reach their objectives. Martial artists with a black belt achieved their standing because of years of practice and training. Similarly, weightlifters did not start out lifting hundred-pound weights but started out with lighter weights and moved up gradually. People who speed-read, sew clothes, and even play complicated computer games also went through the process of learning, practice, improvement, and mastery.
All in all, it takes a kid with a growth mindset to achieve mastery in anything.
According to a research on brain plasticity, experience and practice can change the connectivity between neurons – current connections are strengthened, new connections are made, and the speed of transmission of impulses is increased. In other words, we can improve neural growth in our brain by how we act, and the way we act and behave is influenced by our belief that our mind is malleable and can grow.
Here are a few strategies we parents can use in our daily lives to help our kids develop a growth mindset:
In a study with 5th graders, Dweck divided the children into two groups and asked them to work on a puzzle task. After succeeding initially, they praised one group for their intelligence and ability and the other group for their effort. When the initially easy task became harder, the groups reacted very differently.
They found that kids who are praised for their intelligence and ability (e.g., You're really smart!) think that their success is due to their natural ability, and failure is because they don't have it. This results to them becoming less persistent, preferring easier tasks to ensure success.
On the other hand, children who are praised for their effort and hard work (e.g., It seems you really worked hard to do this!) are educated to have the power and control to change the situation. They are more likely to look forward to challenges and believe that their performance can still be improved. Failure for them is just a part of the challenge.
We praise our kids as a means of encouragement and appreciation, but our words can have an impact on our kids' mindset. So let’s change our language in our daily lives!
|Instead of saying …||Why not say …|
|You're so good at this.||I see you put a lot of effort into this.|
|You're intelligent like your mom/dad.||Your hard work is paying off.|
|It seems you weren't born to be an artist/athlete/math wizard.||It seems you don't get this yet.|
|This looks too easy for you. You really are smart.||This looks too easy for you. How about trying out something more challenging?|
Adults play an important role in the mindset of children. A 2012 study found that educators with a fixed mindset are more likely to judge students as having low potential. Their beliefs lead them to comfort students who get bad results rather than help them build a strategy to improve. Worse still, a separate study found that this comfort-oriented feedback is linked to lower motivation in students who are not performing well and also leads to lower expectations for their own performance.
There are also studies that show animals who live alone just eat and sleep all the time. This behavior is unlike that in animals who live in challenging environments with different toys and other animals to interact with. Those in the latter group have to constantly figure out how to use the toys and how to get along with their companions, so they have more connections between the nerve cells in their brains. The connections were found to be bigger and stronger, too.
So as parents or educators, we need to remind ourselves that the brain is like a muscle. The more our kids use their brain, the stronger it will get. Learning new things, challenging their minds, and practicing will help their brain cells grow.
Affirmation is one important tactic that we can teach our kids. When we say positive statements, we are opening the way for them to keep on moving forward to reach their objectives. Here are some of them:
- Things are difficult before they are easy.
- Babies aren’t stupid – they are growing and learning every day.
- I am helpful, hopeful, and worthy.
- Every problem has an answer.
- I can do it.
- I learn from my mistakes.
- Every day brings new opportunities.
- Whatever I do, I give my best.
- Problems are challenges to a better me.
- I am ready to seize the opportunities of the day.
Studies show that growth mindset improves kids' performance because it shifts the way they think about themselves.
So, let us learn and use the growth feedback and help our kids develop a growth mindse
I believe our kids are the key to the future of the world and, as parents, we have a lot of influence while our children are still learning and growing. We set ourselves as our kids’ role models. Consciously and unconsciously, we pass on to them what we know, what we believe, and what we value. This is why partnering with parents in teaching life lessons and soft skills to get kids prepared for the world has become my key purpose in life. I hope that through my experience in teaching communications in university and in NLP training and coaching, I’ll be able to equip you with more tangible methods so that you can be your children’s life teacher, too!
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