Supporting Parents. Fostering Change.

Am I Sending a Growth Mindset Message to my Child?

“Parents think they can hand children permanent confidence — like a gift — by praising their brains and talent.  It doesn’t work, and in fact has the opposite effect.  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.”

Carol S. Dweck, Mindset – The New Psychology of Success

Praise effort, not outcome.  Got it.  Sounds simple.  Right? Not!

“Great job on the A on your science quiz, sweetie.”  Whoops!

“Your painting is beautiful, honey.” Yikes!

“Great win out there, love.” Uh oh!

Jeez Louise. None of those common praises work towards a growth mindset. Sometimes parenting can feel like navigating through a minefield of self-esteem bombs. Dweck believes, and I agree with her, that it’s our job as parents to help our kids develop a “growth mindset.” We need to help them believe in the power their efforts have to result in change and growth; to encourage them to see the opportunity that failure offers them (and us) to learn.   How is that accomplished exactly?

Sometimes I struggle for words with my kids.  What do I say at the end of the school day to set the stage for a growth mindset?  What questions can I ask that move them toward resiliency?

I’ve been thinking a lot about this while rereading Dweck’s book.  I’d like to think I can walk the walk as well as talk the talk.  If I want my children to embrace mistakes, then I have to embrace my own.  If I expect my kids to focus on process vs. outcome, then I need to look at my own efforts rather than outcomes.

I’m going to work on this at home, and here are some words that were inspired by Dweck to help me live the growth mindset message.

Try asking this at the end of the school day:

  • “What did you learn today?”
  • “What mistake did you make that taught you something?”
  • “What did you work extra hard on today?”

Try saying this during a family dinner:

  • “Here is a mistake I made today that really taught me a lesson.”
  • “I’ve got to tell you about something I worked really hard on today.”
  • “Paperwork is my least favorite part of my job.  It’s so boring.  Here’s what I did to make it more fun for myself.”
  • “I’ve been really working on my listening skills at work.  When I get distracted, it’s really hard for me to listen.”

If believing that our kids’ basic qualities are ones they can cultivate, through their own efforts, then we have to begin with ourselves as parents.  It’s a marathon not a sprint.  Believing in our own ability to make changes is the strongest message we can give to our kids.

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