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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Fixed vs Growth Mindset: Teaching Children to Succeed

After curriculum night at Carolyn's school, I emailed the teacher.  She had mentioned the element of fear, and how that can really hold child back from learning.  Since Carolyn first started talking, we have been trying to figure why she won't try new things.  Somehow, she learned a fear of making mistakes.  When her teacher spoke about this, I felt she was talking about Carolyn.  So I emailed, asking for any advice on how we can help Carolyn overcome this at home.  He response was to suggest a couple books to read - 1 for me, 1 for Carolyn. 

The book for Carolyn is "The girl who never made a mistake."  We picked up both books from the library yesterday and Carolyn read it in the car as we went to the grocery store and then her soccer game.  I'm not quite sure she got the right message though.  She said, but the girl did make a mistake.  We asked what happened after that, did anyone get mad?  She admitted the girl ended up being fine.  She really likes the book though and we're thinking about purchasing it for her for Christmas.  We'll keep it for a couple more weeks and see how she feels about it.

I spent the last 24 hours reading "Mindset: The new psychology of Success" by Carol Dweck.  Her main focus is that we can choose which mindset we approach life with - fixed or growth.  In other words, with each thing in life we decide whether we have to rely on our talents or whether we can learn something new.  I think this is a book that every parent, teacher, and business executive need to read.  It speaks right to the latest culture of telling everyone that they are the best, and handing out trophies to every kid.  The biggest take home for parenting for me is in the type of praise to provide.  And it's very similar to what I've been reading in the books on parenting a gifted child, but applies to every single child.  Do not praise a child for being smart, for doing things quickly, or for expending little effort.  Praise the process and the effort.  If the child completes an assignment very quickly, one could even apologize for wasting the kids' time because it wasn't challenging enough.  This helps children to value the effort expended and thereby be more accepting of a challenge.  They won't feel the need to constantly show how smart they are, and will realize that it's good to work hard and it's okay to struggle. 

So from here we'll avoid saying things like "You're so smart", "That came so easy for you," or anything that compares children.  Instead we'll say "I'm so glad you kept trying", "What did you learn today?", or "That was tough, what could we do differently next time?"  I hope it will encourage Carolyn to take on more challenges.  I had begun to consciously make this change after reading the other books, and I think I've started to see small changes already.  She figured out how to spell "girl" yesterday, trying out a bunch of different letters before getting it right, and we celebrated the effort she made to figured it out.  And tonight she tried a hula hoop and kept trying more, even though she wasn't a super star right away.  She also walked on a "high wire" (2ft off the ground). 

I suggest you check this book out, it might just change how you view what you say to your child and how you view the challenges and set back you encounter in your own life.