I came across an interesting TED talk by Carol Dweck and was introduced to this beautiful concept called ‘The Growth Mindset’. The Growth Mindset is the most valuable gift we can give ourselves at any point in our lives. What is a Growth Mindset? It means that our brain is everchanging throughout our lives and it keeps getting stronger as we keep learning. To develop this in children from a very young age would be a life-changer for them – something that would transform their ability to persevere towards their goals and their ability to take challenges headon.
Here are four ways we can develop and nurture the growth mindset in our children:
#1Always praise the process and the effort and NOT the result. We should be specific in our praise.
Instead of saying “What a Beautiful Painting”, we can say “It is amazing how you were so focussed on your coloring!” Or “You have put in so much thought into the colors! That is amazing!”
When we praise the outcome or the ability, it conveys a fixed mindset. It makes them scared of losing the “good/great” tag and of making mistakes. By praising the effort, our children understand that they can control and improve on it. By paying attention to their process and not only the outcome, we encourage them to be patient and keep trying even if the result isn’t fantastic.
#2 Encourage our children to add “yet” to their donts and cants.
“I can’t ride a bike YET”, “I don’t know how gravity works YET”, “I don’t understand Algebra YET”
YET transforms the meaning of the sentence and makes the child a lifelong learner. YET means with time and effort, I can understand and learn, it doesn’t mean I am dumb or “not meant for math”.
#3 When our children are stuck, guide them to ask themselves questions like ‘What can I do differently?’ Or ‘Is there something I missed?’. Let us not stop with the ‘work hard and put in the effort’ speech. That way, failing will no longer be about a personal deficiency but about finding another way to do the same thing.
#4 Most importantly, we need to talk to our children about the growth mindset. Explain to them how the brain forms new connections and that is why things become easier with practice. Tell them about how the brain grows stronger as we make mistakes, as we keep learning new skills and as we keep finding new ways of doing things.
As I read about the growth mindset and looked at my interactions with my daughters, I started becoming aware of what I was telling them. I caught myself several times praising their intelligence instead of their effort. But I am certain that slowly, these behavioral changes will become a part of our nature and it will become a part of our child’s nature as well. Then we will have a child who doesn’t mind making mistakes, who embraces challenges, perseveres and finds different ways to make things work and never feels ‘stupid’ when they fail.