“I’ll never be able to tie my shoes; it’s too hard!”
Sound familiar? As parents, it can be difficult to navigate through the various struggles our children encounter as they grow. We want to encourage and help–heck, we may even be tempted to tie their shoes for them until they leave for college. But what if we started to support our kids through their struggles by first transforming their ideas about the brain?
Carol Dweck, a psychology professor at Stanford, conducted a study on achievement and success. Dweck categorized two types of mindsets people possess: fixed and growth. A fixed mindset is the belief that talents and intelligence are inherent, while a growth mindset is the belief that they can be developed. Most successful people have a growth mindset, which “creates motivation and productivity in the worlds of business, education, and sports.” When we understand that our brain is like a muscle that is strengthened most during struggle, we are more likely to persevere and grow.
“Okay, thanks for the info, but now what?”
Try these three simple ways to foster and encourage a growth mindset in your kids.
3 Ways to Encourage Growth Mindset in Your Kids
1. Praise effort over product
When giving your child feedback, focus on the effort they are setting forth. If we constantly praise kids for doing something that was easy for them, what’s the message when they eventually encounter something difficult? By narrowing our message to the work they’ve put into a challenge, we are strengthening the message that effort matters.
For example, rather than saying “You are SO good at baseball!” after a game, try “All those practices after school really paid off!” instead. Of course it’s not wrong to acknowledge the natural talents of your kid (maybe they are really good at baseball), but unless your tee-baller is already on a Kris Bryant level, there is always room to grow and develop. This change in feedback will help your child develop a growth mindset during times of struggle and triumph. Be mindful, however . . . empty praise for ‘trying their best’ when they didn’t actually work hard helps no one.
2. The Power of Yet
It’s inevitable that our kids will run into frustration. Whether it’s homework, sports, or learning how to play an instrument, there will be moments of wanting to quit. As we help them handle this struggle, a simple change in language can encourage perseverance and a growth mindset. That is the power of yet. When your son or daughter cry out that they’ll never be able to tie their shoes, remind them they can’t tie their shoes YET. When long division homework is about to run you both up a wall, and your kid shouts out they’re terrible at math, suggest maybe they aren’t great at math…YET.
The beautiful thing about the brain is that it behaves like a muscle. When we work through difficulty, it grows and stretches to make us smarter and more capable. At home, we love to play this song to help through struggle. Remind your child that the moments they want to give up are the exact moments their brain is doing the heaviest lifting. Sure, the work is hard, but if they keep trying to develop the sought-after skill, they unlock the power of yet.
3. Reflect on Your Own Mindset
We are our children’s most influential teacher. Ready or not, they are shaped by what they observe much more strongly than what they hear. That is why it’s important to think about our own mindset. How do we handle struggle? What’s our attitude towards our own talents? What is our reaction to mistake making? If you notice you exhibit more traits of a fixed mindset, are you willing to work towards a change? During my own reflection, I realized my mindset was fixed in many ways, particularly when handling failure. By consciously shifting our language, views on failure, and approaches to things that are difficult, we can strongly impact the mindsets of ourselves and our kids.
It won’t be easy, but us mamas can become the catalyst for a movement of challenge-welcoming, forward-failing, positively persistent, world-changing kids. And they’re worth it; after all, a mindset is a terrible thing to waste.