The stockings are hung, the to-do list is getting shorter, and the countdown to Christmas continues. Closing out a challenging year is the perfect time to equip kids for dealing with challenges.
Henry Ford once wisely said, “Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right.” It’s important that kids learn just because they’re unable to do something today doesn’t make it a fixed, forever reality. Carol Dweck, professor of psychology at Stanford University, began research more than 30 years ago that led to coining the terms “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.”
Basically, they refer to whether we see ourselves and our abilities as cast in stone or subject to improvement with practice. An example of fixed mindset is saying, “I’m just not good at that.” An example of growth mindset is instead, saying, “With more practice I can get better at that.” Among other thing, our mindset drives our reaction to failure, which can either limit us or help us flourish.
In Motherly’s “11 Powerful Ways to Build a Growth Mindset in Kids,” by Karen Young, she notes that “Children who believe that intelligence lies with the genetically blessed are quicker to give up, believing that if they can’t do something, it’s because they aren’t smart enough, creative enough, good enough, whatever enough.”
One tip she offers is to “use the word ‘yet’ and use it often,” as in “I’m not able to do it yet.” Young also suggests that “praise that focuses on effort (‘You’ve worked really hard on that!’) promotes a growth mindset.”
As part of that, it’s important for kids to understand that practice is a necessary precursor to improvement and success. They need to know it’s completely natural to be “bad” at something we’re just learning how to do. That’s why tools such as Write & Reuse™ workbooks are excellent. Using a special marker, kids can write, wipe away, and redo the activities in the workbooks over and over again. The format is perfect for helping kids gain confidence and giving them more opportunities to master new concepts and skills.
However, as with so many things, kids pick up quickly on parents’ attitudes toward success and failure. The organization Six Seconds, “the emotional intelligence network,” offers “9 Ways to Teach a Growth Mindset to Kids.” Notably, #3 is “Model a growth mindset for them,” saying that “No matter what you tell children, the best way to teach a growth mindset is to work on developing your own.” Right on the heels of those wise words is #4: “Show your struggles,” noting that “It’s hard to model a growth mindset, though, if you always try to hide your mistakes from your children.” They acknowledge that since we want to protect kids, we think we’re doing that instead of showing them that failure can be a springboard for growth.
A few prominent “visuals” can help remind and encourage both parents and kids. For example, a Mindset Classroom Poster available from Amazon, offers side-by-side comparisons such as “It’s too hard” vs. “With more practice it will get easier” and “I’m afraid of making a mistake” vs. “Mistakes are how I learn and get better.”
Or go to Etsy and search “growth mindset.” A Denver-based shop called AlwaysSunnyCo. offers similar posters as digital downloads with these types of reminders: “Every mistake you make is progress” and “you have not failed unless you have quit trying.” The reviews suggest customers have found them helpful at home AND in classrooms during these trying times.
Also on Etsy, from the SimplyStainedShop based in McAlester, OK, are motivational signs with messages such as “You can do hard things” and “believe in the power of yet.”
A growth mindset will not magically develop equal skill in every area or make every report card all A’s. But as “3 Problems of a Fixed Mindset,” suggests, “With a fixed mindset, failing is seen in light of what has been lost or nothing achieved and as an example of our own inadequacy.” It adds that “With a growth mindset, however, failure is viewed as an opportunity to learn from the attempt and gain new perspective from the experience.”
That alone is a treasure, and for kids, as Karen Young suggests, “A growth mindset will supercharge their capacity to learn.”
A bonus? It requires no wrapping, no size-guessing, and no charge card!