Episcopal Collegiate Counselors Tricia Davis and Anna TerAvest recently introduced students to Carol Dweck’s research on fixed vs. growth mindset. Her research found that the way children are praised sends a distinct message and creates a strong mindset about abilities. When children are praised for accomplishments, they tend to stick to easier problems and shy away from challenges. This is a fixed mindset. They begin to believe that the talents and intelligence they are born with is all that they will have. When children are praised for effort and hard work, they begin to seek out more challenging material and realize they can grow their talents and intelligence. This type of thinking is called a growth mindset.
We asked our students to examine where they have fixed mindsets when they say things like:
I don’t need to study; I always do well on math tests.
I can’t draw.
I’m not a writer.
We asked them to change the way they look at this self-talk and instead use wording like:
Studying can help prime the brain for future growth. I need to let my teacher know that I am ready and willing for more of a challenge.
I’m still learning to draw. The more time I spend drawing and learning from others, the better I will be.
My writing is not polished and smooth, yet, but I keep writing and rewriting.
Parents can help their children immensely by paying close attention to the wording they use when praising children. The words and actions we use towards them shape how they think about themselves. The following lists give some examples of how to praise your child to create a growth mindset.
Fixed Mindset Language to Avoid
You are really athletic!
You are so smart!
Your drawing is wonderful; you are my little artist.
You are so fast! You will be the next Usain Bolt.
You always get good grades; that makes me happy.
Growth Mindset Language to Use
You really work hard and pay attention when you are on the field.
You work hard in school, and it shows!
I can see you have been practicing your drawing; what a great improvement.
Keep running, and you will see great results.
When you put forth effort, it really shows in your grades. You should be so proud of yourself. We are proud of your effort.
So, the next time you are ready to praise your child, stop to think about how to use that opportunity to praise his or her effort instead of accomplishments. Also, please help them rephrase their “I can’t” to “I’m not there, yet.”