Believing that intelligence can grow allows students to learn more. The idea that intelligence is not a fixed trait leads students to acquire deeper knowledge and do better than students who believe their intelligence is set. Studies by Carol S. Dweck and her colleagues demonstrate that teen depression, creativity and academic achievement are all impacted by individual’s beliefs. Dweck’s research provides guidance for parents who want to instill a growth mind-set in their children.
While most of us think we have a growth mind-set, in reality we most likely have a mixture of fixed and growth mind-set. Dweck’s research guides us to listen to the little voice in our head to find out what we are telling ourselves. When we are challenged to step out of our comfort zone, we often confront our fixed mind-set. The little voice in our head says; “This is too hard, you are not good at this, stop now before you make a fool of your self”. A growth mind-set inner voice would offer support; “ If you don’t try you will never learn, it’s okay to work hard and learn something even if you fail, you can ask for help if you need it”.
Telling a child that they can do anything if they try hard enough may sound like it is promoting a growth mind-set. However it does not teach children how the brain grows. Dweck stresses the importance of telling children that they have the ability to grow through learning new information and hard work. Just telling children to work hard without providing the instruction for success can backfire. Children need to be supported in their learning process with effective instruction. They need strategies to build skills and strategies. Parents and teachers can provide support and mentoring to guide the process.
Parents who praise a “process focus” and point out their child’s honest efforts and use of good strategies are guiding their children towards a growth mind-set. While Dweck’s research does not focus specifically on children with learning differences, her findings offer helpful advice. When children try hard but don’t succeed, Dweck suggests parents take time to discuss what strategies were used and what can be tried next. In this way, parents are offering support and guiding their child towards success.
Watch this video by Carol Dweck and learn more about how to guide your child towards a growth mind-set.