Sometimes I get the joy of being an assistant coach at my daughter’s basketball practice. She wasn’t having much success getting her free throws to fall, so, I encouraged her to shoot them without jumping to see what happens. Well, you know how well our kids take direction from us… She weakly and stubbornly ‘tried'( aka – didn’t try at all). So, I gave her that powerful mom look of “are you kidding me?”. She grumbled back at me “it’s hard.” I follow up with, “of course it’s hard, but you aren’t going to get the scholarship you dream of if you only do what’s easy.”
What makes us decide to push through the difficulty or to quit? And, how can we make the push the norm?
Working in EdTech, I came across the definitions of fixed and Growth Mindset a few years ago as I worked toward being a thought leader for my partners. People either believe their abilities are fixed and don’t work hard to grow or they believe that with hard work their brains can expand and talent can increase. Carol Dwek wrote the book mindset – the new psychology of success, she explains the power of a growth mindset and how it can lead to success.
So, how can we as parents help our children develop a growth mindset and guide them to more success? I’m sure you can think of many times to help teach your children about growth mindset, but let’s look at school for a moment. Our kids are going to school and learning new things at a breakneck pace. Because of the fast-paced educational demands, it’s so important to show them how to talk to themselves positively and not to quit when it gets tough. It’s like a baby chick hatching from an egg, if we help the chick out of its egg, it will die. If we let it fight it’s way out and struggle it will be strong and healthy. Once they realize the success on the other side of the struggle, it will help keep them pushing on through challenges for a lifetime.
Obviously, there is a struggle that is unhealthy and struggle that is healthy, however, with every challenge we need to have a growth view instead of a fixed perspective. Any situation can be overcome or at least not make us want to quit as long as we can see the light within the challenge.
8 Ways we can teach our kids growth mindset
- Explain how the brain works like a muscle, that it can grow only through hard work, determination and lots and lots of practice. It works like a muscle, the more we work it, the stronger it becomes.
- Teach them about the two different Mindsets (fixed and growth): There are two ways to view ourselves – one way says we will never be better than this moment and the other states, If I work hard I will be way better.
- Recognize Effort over success. It’s the hard work that leads to success. Some examples: instead of saying to your child “you are so smart” you could say “wow, your hard work really paid off on this, great job.” With my daughter in basketball, I say “wow, I can tell how hard you work at practice when I see you on the court, your hard work really pays off.”
- Help them Set goals: Growth and the direction of our growth come from setting goals. As our kids get better at things, we can encourage them to set goals for even more growth. Make sure they are SMART goals
- Help them change their negative self-talk. The way we talk to ourselves when things get tough leads to a growth or fixed mindsets. By helping our children replace the negative talk will help them push on when things are tough. For example – If they say this is too hard or I’m too dumb. We can help by encouraging them to say “I don’t get this, yet” or “This is hard, I better keep practicing” (more examples)
- Role Model Growth Mindset: Talking out loud as you solve your own challenges with a growth mindset will help your children see how it works. It may seem weird at first, but it’s doing profound things to your child’s brain when they watch you in action.
- Embrace failures and mistakes. Mistakes and losses are often some of the best ways we learn and grow. There aren’t many things more rewarding than the feeling of struggle in a difficult situation, only to finally break through and solve it.
- Encourage competency-based learning. We want our kids to discover the deep level of understanding over the correct answers.
After my little scolding during practice, my daughter has gone on to make almost every free throw (5-6), without jumping. Once she decided to try, she realized it wasn’t that hard after all. One, it feels good to be right. Two, it feels even better to watch our kids push through the hard stuff and smile with pride when they succeed.