What is a growth mindset? A growth mindset means you believe that through hard work, experience and help from other people, you can develop your basic qualities. Failure is understood as an opportunity to learn and grow. In contrast, a fixed mindset means you believe that people’s traits, like intelligence or personality, are “fixed” and can’t be changed. The problem with a fixed mindset is that it doesn’t allow for growth- a child will look at failure as something that occurred because of who they are as opposed to something they did.
A child with a fixed mindset will take fewer opportunities. They don’t want to risk trying new things and failing. If they believe they aren’t creative or athletic for example, then they won’t see the point in trying creative activities or sports. A fixed mindset can hamper a child’s ability to develop new skills and can set a pattern for life that will affect how they approach life, success and failure, and their ability to find happiness as adults.
One’s mindset develops in childhood. Ask any teacher and they can spot a child in their class with a growth mindset- he or she is open to trying new and different things and handles mistakes well as opposed to the child who is unwilling to take risks and gives up easily. We as parents have the ability to teach our children to have a growth mindset. Here’s how:
When your child gets a question right or shows you a good grade received in school- praise their effort instead of their ability. Try saying, “that’s great, you worked really hard”, instead of “that’s great! You’re really smart”. The child learns that their success is because of actions they took and not because of something fixed like their intelligence. Telling them they succeeded because they are smart will make them question if they are still smart when they don’t succeed?
Teach your child that success and failure are both a part of life and that without failure, we can’t learn. Avoid reacting strongly when your child isn’t successful at something. Teach them to see failure as a chance to learn what to do differently the next time. If your child were to fail a test, ask your child how they prepared, is there something they can do differently next time, and who can help? Help them to problem solve changes they can make to have more success the next time. That way whenever they encounter a struggle in life, they will understand that there are steps they can take to change their situation. Otherwise, they may feel stuck in difficult situations because they think they aren’t enough in some way (smart enough, creative enough, attractive enough, and so forth).
Our children watch and learn from us in little ways every day. What’s your mindset? How do you approach success or failure in your own life? Are you someone who avoids taking chances in life when you feel you won’t be successful? Do you worry a lot about what people think and seek their approval? Have opportunities or relationships come your way that you didn’t pursue because you figured they wouldn’t work out because of some aspect of who you are? If so, you may be using a fixed mindset. Show your children that you are willing to try and fail. Acknowledge your mistakes. Show your child how your mistake is a chance for you to grow and try something different the next time! Transforming your mindset will help transform your child’s, and you can both find greater happiness along the way.