Helping Children Develop a Mindset for Success
Children are very impressionable. Even the offhand comment can shape who they become. This can seem alarming to parents, but it is also a wonderful opportunity. As a parent, be deliberate and careful about how you talk to your children because it will influence how successful they become. How can parents foster patterns of success in their children? Want to know the secret of how to help your child succeed? According to Stanford professor Carol Dweck, it’s all about mindset.
Dweck’s research suggests that there are two types of mindsets: fixed and growth. Children with fixed mindsets attribute their successes and failures to personal characteristics, while children with growth mindsets attribute successes and failures to effort. Parents play a key role in mindset development.
So, which one’s better?
Over and over again, research has shown that growth mindset is the mindset for success. Here’s an example of a study Dweck conducted…
2 groups of children were given puzzles to complete (some easy, some difficult)
Group 1: Fixed mindset
First they completed an easy puzzle, and the researcher said, “Good job, you must be really smart!” When they were then given a difficult puzzle and struggled, they gave up pretty quickly. When asked why they didn’t complete the puzzle, they said, “I’m not very good at it.” When given the option to do an easy puzzle or a difficult puzzle, they chose easy.
Group 2: Growth mindset
They were also given an easy puzzle first, but upon completion the researcher said, “Good job, you must have worked really hard!” With the more difficult puzzle, they tried longer and were more likely to complete it. When given the option between easy and difficult, they chose difficult.
Here’s the bottom line of how to help your child succeed: Praise your children for their efforts. Don’t pin successes or failures to inherent traits.
Here are some examples of parents encouraging a growth mindset:
• “You worked hard to build that tower. Good job!”
• “I love hearing you practice the piano! You are getting better and better at that piece.”
• “Cleaning your room must have taken a lot of time. Way to stick with it until the job was done!”
• “I could tell that you were running your fastest out there on the soccer field! Even towards the end of the game when everyone else was slowing down, you kept pushing.”
• “Wow, what a great test score! I’m so proud of how hard you studied and prepared for it. You’re such a hard worker, and it’s paying off!”
• “I’m sorry that you’re disappointed with your test score. I know you can do better if you put your mind to it. What can we do to better prepare for it next time?”
As you praise your children’s efforts, they will likely develop a growth mindset. They will be keener to do hard things, and they will be more confident in their ability to succeed. They will also be more likely to succeed because they will try longer when things are tough. Those with growth mindsets have higher self-esteem than those with fixed mindsets because they don’t internalize their failures. Traits are fixed—there’s not much you can do about them. Effort, however, is limitless. A growth mindset is the mindset for success!
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Ashley LeBaron is a Marriage, Family, and Human Development graduate student at Brigham Young University. She is preparing to be a professor and a mom. Ashley has published and presented research on topics such as emotional reconnection between spouses and how parents teach their kids about money. In her observation of families in 21 countries, she has found that family is where the greatest happiness and success is cultivated.
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