What is your Parenting Mindset?
“If parents want to give their children a gift, the best thing they can do is to teach their children to love challenges, be intrigued by mistakes, enjoy effort, and keep on learning. That way, their children don’t have to be slaves of praise, they will have a lifelong way to build and repair their own confidence.”
Carol S. Dweck
If we ask parents what they want for their children, the majority will say, “I want my child to be successful, be a good person, be caring, etc. etc.” Dr. Carol Dweck, a Stanford University Psychologist, through decades of research, found that people’s beliefs about their intelligence, personality and abilities differ. In her book “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success”, she explains that most people have one of two mindsets, a fixed or a growth mindset.
A fixed mindset, is when people believe that our core personality, character, talent, abilities and intelligence are unchangeable. We are either talented at something: art, music, sports, math, logic, etc., or we aren’t. In the fixed mindset world, we say things like, “My child has a talent for math, that’s why she got a good grade” or “my child isn’t good at sports because he has two left feet” and so on. They believe that success has a lot to do with talent or an innate gift. The sense of success/failure are tied to their identity. They tend to develop fear of failure and avoid risks, and show an indifferent attitude toward effort. When they face a setback, they make excuses or try to find someone/something to blame it on.
A growth mindset, is when people believe that everything about a person is modifiable, that it is possible to change through practice and perserverance. There are no talented geniuses or dumb people, only hard-working ones. In the growth mindset world, we say things like, “What can I do encourage my child to try harder in class?” or “I can learn from my mistakes and try to do better next time”. They believe that they can develop their abilities, that effort and practice make a difference in their success, and setbacks are seen as opportunities for further improvement to pursue their goals. They love learning and challenges. Success and failure are not directly tied to their identities.
Holding a fixed or a growth mindset shapes the lens through which we view our world and impacts every single thought and action we take.
What can parents do?
Parents have a powerful impact on their children’s mindsets. The language we use and the actions we take talk about our mindset. Here are some ideas to implement:
1. Be aware of your mindset. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I praise my child for the outcome or for the learning process?
- How do I respond to my child’s mistakes or failures?
- Do I trust in my child’s ability?
- When my child experiences a setback, do I see it as an opportunity for learning? Or Do I judge him or find excuses for it?
- Do I foster curiosity? Or Do I limit their initiative?
- Suppose your child consistently fails in tests. What is your reaction? Do you think your child is lazy or dumb? Do you get mad? Do you help your child to look for other strategies to learn? Do you ask your child if there is something interfering with his learning?
- Suppose you are learning something new, after a few weeks you find yourself failing. Are you tempted to give up? You think you are not good at it? Look for a reason to justify your way out?
2. Create a growth-mindset friendly environment, believe in your child’s potential to grow, provide support and collaborate in their learning, avoid judgement.
3. Praise the process, when we praise children for being smart or talented, it promotes a fixed mindset. the message is that their accomplishments are trait-based, something innate. In contrast, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset, you can appreciate your child’s accomplishments, but tie it to the process they engaged in (strategies, perseverance, hard-work, etc.) the message is that their effort is what led them to success. Here some examples of what to say:
- ‘I see that you worked so hard on this’
- ‘It seems like it is time to try a new strategy’
- ‘It looks like that was too easy for you; Let’s find something challenging so your brain can grow’
- ‘Everyone learns in different way; Keep trying to find the way that works for you’
- ‘That was really hard! Next time you will be ready’
4. Show that Risks and Mistakes are part of the learning process, share with your children about your mistakes and struggles, and what you’ve learned from them. Explain to your children that practice and perserverance is what helps us grow, and you can be very good when you try something hard!
5. Talk about their brain and emotions
- Teach your child that their brain is like a muscle – it grows and gets stronger when they practice, ask questions, and participate actively in learning; all these actions create neural connections. When children learn that they have control over their brains, this increases their motivation.
- Talk to your children about emotions. When we feel threatened, a stress response is activated in our brains. It can happen when we are scared of a spider or scared of a math exam! Our body reacts by sweating, stomach cramping, and sometimes our minds go blank.
- Help your child come up with strategies to help calm themselves down when stressed or upset, like breathing exercises.
Reference: “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success” by Dr. Carol Dweck.