“I’m not good at math.”
“I’ll never be as good as he is.”
“I’m so stupid.”
Comments like these happen with surprising frequency among children. It begins the moment they start to see differences in their ability compared to the ability of their peers. It doesn’t take long for students to become focused on the result more than the process. This type of result-only focus can lead to an aversion to any type of risk or challenge. Students want to get good grades, win medals, and beat their peers — but will only attempt activities where they think this is possible.
Stanford psychologist and author of Mindset, Dr. Carol Dweck, said that the best thing a parent can do for their children is to teach them to, “love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning.”
Here are six ways you can begin working on developing a growth mindset in your home today:
1. Have daily learning discussions
Don’t worry about not having the answer to a question your child asks. In fact, embrace it. Let them know you don’t know, but you know how to find an answer. Walk them through the process of problem solving and they will see how to observe a question or challenge and then find a solution. It’s great for kids to hear about what you learn each day. Talk about it as you have dinner or get ready for bed. It is one of the best ways to show that learning is a lifelong pursuit.
2. Praise the process
Stop saying things like “you’re so smart.” Eventually your child will make a mistake and then what will you say? Instead focus on promoting and praising the process. “You worked really hard on that, nice job!” As you focus on the process it becomes the source of praise and your children will start to focus on improving the process instead of worrying simply about results.
3. Talk about the brain as a muscle
Help your kids understand that the brain is no different than their bicep. Stretch it, push it, challenge it, and you will see growth. The brain is constantly growing and sees the most growth when we really challenge it.
4. Model positive self-talk
The single best thing you can add to the end of a negative comment like “I can’t do this,” is the word yet. “I can’t do this yet,” changes the whole tone of the comment and opens the discussion for how to find a way to improve.
5. Break down failure
Failure shouldn’t be a foreign concept that is avoided. Talk about times you’ve failed or fallen short and how you were able to adjust and improve the next time. Don’t let failure become a daunting word that causes fear. Failure should align perfectly with the concept of learning and growth. Let your kids see you fail and help them see how you bounce back.
6. Show gratitude for challenge
The next time you face a difficult challenge express gratitude for it and talk about how the challenge has opened up new learning opportunities. Your child needs to see you embrace challenges and to become excited at the prospect of learning something new even if there are a few roadblocks along the way.