Updated: Sep 23, 2021
WHAT IS A GROWTH MINDSET? WHY IS IT IMPORTANT? AND ... HOW TO GET IT!
The more I learn about kids mindset the more I realize how important it is to believe in yourself and to have a growth mindset. Our kids attitude (and our attitude towards them) determines their success or failure. We all want our kids to feel loved, safe, strong and resilient. Resilience is often the hardest to teach.
I 100% bought into the old belief that just telling my son he was smart or good at something was a benefit and see now that I attributed to the fixed mindset dilemma. Now, remember these words ... We are all doing the BEST we can with the information we have. Say it out loud to yourself if you would like "I am doing the best I can with the information I have." Now, anything we learn about moving forward doesn't discredit anything we installed or did in our past because we did have positive intentions. So instead of the "I woulda, shoulda, coulda" talk, shift it over to "I am grateful for my new awareness."
So why is mindset so important you ask? Carol Dweck studied the mindsets of children for many years and discovered that there are striking similarities between kids who grow up to become resilient adults who can effectively handle stress and adversity. What she found was that those children share a similar outlook on life – one that focuses on perseverance and positive thinking. It is the belief that intelligence improves through study and practice which she coined as GROWTH mindset. Her research also shows that people with a FIXED mindset are unlikely to reach their full potential as they believe that a certain things are unattainable for them or can't be achieved. Things that are viewed as too hard can devastate self esteem around intelligence and create limiting beliefs like "I’m not smart enough." They focus on perfection - perfect stops us from trying new things because failure is viewed as permeant. Yuk! So lets talk about what it looks like to have a fixed OR growth mindset.
A fixed mindset assumes that intelligence, ability, creativity is set at birth. You have a set amount of it and it is a fixed trait like being tall or having brown eyes and it is what it is. You either got it, or you don't. No matter what you do. Success is related to what we are born with - either success or failure. Trying and effort is often avoided for fear of looking dumb. People with a fixed mindset often see mistakes as personal failures, they avoid challenges and give up easily if they feel frustrated with a task because they don’t want to show others what they perceive to be their personal weaknesses.
They feel unhappy when others around them are successful because they tend to become resentful and feel less adequate themselves. The self-esteem of fixed mindset people fluctuates with their success. When they experience failure, they attribute it to a defect in their own intelligence or abilities, instead of to a lack of effort or practice. This can lead to feelings of anxiety or depression. When they experience success, this mindset leads them to feel arrogant because they believe they are smarter or more capable than others.
Fixed Mindset Beliefs
desire to look smart at all costs
effort is looked at as fruitless
receives constructive criticism and then makes excuses or places blame as to why it wasn't done right the first time
threated by the success of others
unlikely to reach full potential as it is thought that a certain place is unattainable or can't be achieved.
when something is viewed as too hard it can devastate self esteem around intelligence and a limiting belief like "I’m not smart enough" can be installed in our subconscious.
I need to know now and if i don't, I’m .... fill in the blank
avoid, run away, find someone doing worse than them to feel better about themselves.
focused on perfection - perfect stops you from trying new things
views failure as permanent
People with a growth mindset tend to see challenges as opportunities to grow because they understand that they can improve their abilities by pushing themselves. If something is hard, they understand it will push them to get better. They believe they can learn anything with dedication, effort, learning from mistakes and mentorship.
Like Carol Dweck said " They Don't think that everyone is the same or that anyone can be Einstein but they understand that even Einstein wasn't the guy he became before he put in years and years of dedicated labor"
People with a growth mindset thrive on challenge as they look at challenges as a launching pad for growth, to learn, and become better than they were the day before. This gives them a greater since of free will and opportunity because they are empowered to control their own destiny
Thomas Edison - "I have not failed. I've just found 10, 000 ways that won't work."
Growth Mindset Beliefs
views failure as an opportunity to learn or pivot
desire to learn & embrace challenges
see effort as the path to mastery
learn from criticism when they receive it
find lessons and inspirations in the success of others
make mistakes, process the errors, learn from it and do better next time.
are inspired to try harder when people around them are successful because they see a model that they can follow
Smart is something you BECOME, not something you are.
If you’re like me, you probably recognize some of the growth and fixed traits in yourself, never mind your kids! When I first heard about the mindsets, I realized that there were certain areas of my life that I hold very fixed mindsets about and yet in other areas I am very growth minded. The research by Carol Dweck around this topic has been so enlightening for me and I hope you are gaining value from this too!
HOW DO I KNOW IF MY CHILD HAS A GROWTH OR FIXED MINDSET?
You maybe asking yourself at this point, how do I really know if my child (or myself ...eekkk) has a fixed mindset? Here's a comparison between the two.
Fixed - look smart at all times and at all costs VS Growth - Learn at all times and at all costs
Fixed mindset - The believe effort is a bad thing. If you have ability, you shouldn't need effort and if you need a lot of effort that you don't have ability. This is challenging especially for the kids that have learning come easy to them because they don't have to try hard and then when they do have to, they have a hard time with it." Growth mindset kids say effort is what activates their ability.
Fixed mindset think that a Setback or deficiency measures you and revels your limitations. Want to hide their mistakes or run from them. Growth mindsets think mistakes and set backs are a natural part of learning. That's just what happens when you take on challenges.
Here are some questions you can ask yourself:
What label does my child give themselves? Is it positive or negative? (ie – I’m smart or I’m stupid or; I’m the best vs I’m the worst or I’m not good at …)
Does my child often say “I can’t” or I’ll never”?
When something is difficult or a challenge, how does my child react? With frustration and gives up or demands help at once or avoids trying in the first place for fear of failure vs trying for a while before asking for help?
What is the reaction when they hear about someone else’s success? Are they excited or happy for them or do they start comparing his or herself to the other person?
HOW TO SHIFT OUT OF A FIXED MINDSET & INTO A GROWTH MINDSET
Like many things, it takes repetition. The more we repeat, the stronger the connection becomes until it eventually becomes second nature. Avoid thinking this is a quick fix. Think about learning to drive a car or ride a bike or potty train. It takes practice and repletion to get confident first and then for it to become second nature. What is important is that ALL brains have the power to change the way things were wired, it's called neuroplasticity. Neuroplasticity is our innate human ability to adapt, change and evolve our neurological pathways. And children's neuropathways are especially mailable.
So for those of you who like to follow steps, here are my 4 R's:
Recognition is the 1st step - Awareness around the thought patterns and what makes you look at things purely through that binary view of success and failure. If they are emotional or upset about something validating their emotions (regardless if they seem ridiculous or not) is important.
Responding vs Reacting - This topic deserves it's own blog so I'll get working on that for you. For now, taking a moment to pause and think before you respond will help to avoid an overreaction.
Reminding your child that not getting the desired result right off the bat or doing something wrong was not a sign of failure, it's a sign of growth. The goal of always trying to learn and grow and to do that we need to try new things, make mistakes and learn from them.
Repetition - repeat, repeat, and repeat some more. Check out the ideas, phrases and tips below to see what works for you and your family. Practice what works. Just like learning any new skill, practice is required for mastery. Plus our brains (especially children's brains) love repetition.
Michael Jordan - "I've failed over and over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed"
IDEAS, PHRASES & TIPS TO FOSTER A GROWTH MINDSET
As I mentioned above, take a look at this list and see what sounds the best for your family. Then try it out. Keep what works for you and trash what doesn't. We are all unique so it's so important do some trial and error as well as following your intuition to figure out what the best course of action is for you and your family.
PRAISE THE EFFORT NOT THE RESULT - (Process praise vs. intelligence praise) IE: Their effort, strategy, focus, systems. (wow that is a really good score, you must have tried really hard); vs (look how smart you are.)
CASUAL CONVERSTAION - Dinner table convo … What was something hard that you overcame today? I’ll go first? Wow that was really hard, i tried so many different things.
THAT's TOO EASY - When something is completed quickly or easily .... instead of oh wow you're good at that ... we can say "oh wow that was easy, let's try something harder, something we can learn something from.”
THE POWER OF "YET" - I tried but it didn't work (gives a path into the future. It gives a learning curve on what they can accomplish. This in my opinion is one of the easiest beneficial changes to make. If you've been following me then you've heard this one before. Just add the word "YET" to the phrase "I CAN'T DO IT" so it changes it to "I CAN'T DO IT ... YET!" This is so powerful because the whole meaning turns from NEVER to SOMETIME I'll be able to do this.
CURIOSITY - The key here is to focus on learning over achievement. The journey is the reward vs if I don't win, I loose. What other ways can we try this? I like the way you did that, what other ways could work?
MISSED-TAKES - Reframe MISTAKES as "MISSED-TAKES" – Talk about how mistakes are good. They help us learn and grow. If we are not making mistakes, we are missing opportunities to learn and grow.
DOWNLOAD your FREE ABC's of Growth Mindset HERE
One last thing ... believe in yourself too, you've got this!
For an even better understanding of growth mindset and helping children fulfill their potential, check out this video.