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Life Skills

Growth Mindset

In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, Stanford University researcher, Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. writes about her over thirty years of research on achievement and success. What she found is that how one thinks about things like intelligence and talent is very important to reaching one’s potential. Dweck discovered that people generally fit into one of two categories she calls the fixed mindset and the growth mindset. People that have a fixed mindset believe that intelligence and skill are something you are born with. For example, some people are smart while others are not as smart. Some kids are believed to have “natural” soccer ability. The problem with a fixed mindset is that if you are born smart, what happens when you are faced with learning new things that are very difficult? What does it mean if you really struggle to learn something new? Are you suddenly not as smart or as good anymore? For this reason, people with a fixed mindset tend to shy away from learning new things that look very hard (2006).

On the other hand, people with a growth mindset believe that talent and intelligence are things that one develops through effort and hard work (Dweck). They believe that learning new things like how to read or how to solve math equations takes time and lots of effort. Learning new skills involves a natural process of failing and fixing. Learning is a struggle. Only after a period of hard work and practice does the skill become more natural and automatic. Because of the way that people with a growth mindset view the process of learning, they are more willing to take on the challenge of learning new and difficult things (2006).

Helping Your Child Develop a Growth Mindset

According to Dweck, to help your child develop a Growth Mindset you must first examine how you praise and encourage your child. If you find yourself saying things like, “You did so well on that test; you’re so smart” then naturally your child is going to begin to associate doing well with being smart. The problem is this—what happens when they bomb a test? Are they suddenly not smart? This can be a big blow to their self-esteem. If instead you praise your child by saying, “Wow, you did really well on that test, you really studied a lot and the hard work paid off,” then you are praising your child for effort. The same holds true for offering feedback when they fail. For example, if they are having a hard time learning to juggle, then you can offer feedback that encourages persistence and effort: “Drew, I see that you are working really hard on juggling. You know that juggling is a very difficult skill and it takes a lot of time and effort to become good at it. If it’s important to you, then you just have to keep working at it.” Here’s a few of Carol Dweck’s Guidelines:

Giving Praise

Do: Praise for practice, study, persistence and using good strategies. Offer honest and constructive feedback. Reinforce that the way forward is through effort and commitment.

Do: Ask questions such as: What strategies did you use? What did you learn today? What will you do next time?

Don’t: Praise for intelligence and talent. Don’t give false praise to build their self-esteem. This sets the child up for failure later and can do more damage to their self-esteem. Don’t give harsh criticism that targets their intelligence or ability.

Dweck, C. (2006) Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. New York: Random House.



Parent Resources

Activities at Home

Click on a heading below to learn how you can do fun activities
at home to encourage positive character development.


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