In my last email, I introduced you to the growth mindset. If you recall, growth mindset kids (and parents) believe the goal is to learn at all times, at all costs. Said another way, growth mindset people believe success, and therefore a positive self-image, are achieved by learning thru growth and effort.
On the other hand, fixed mindset kids (and parents) want to look smart at all times, and at all costs. Fixed mindset people believe success, and therefore a positive self- image, are achieved by performing well and looking smart. Ugh! Read more about it here https://thepeacefulparent.com/2017/03/15/the-poison-pill-we-feed-our-kids/
I heard from many of you that this topic really resonated.
But what does this “growth mindset” language sound like…and how do I speak it to my kids?
Here are 2 quick ways to boost your child’s positive self-image by instilling a growth mindset:
1. Praise the effort, not the result:
Take grades for example…when your child comes home with an A on their test or report card, focus on the effort that went into achieving it, instead of the resulting grade itself. When the emphasis is placed on the result, the child connects success to achieving that same outcome. The result of that, is anytime they don’t feel certain they can “succeed” (get another A, win the game, etc.) they develop a fear of failing which makes them afraid of even trying ☹. Worse than that, they can develop a fear of asking for help, because they believe they have to get everything right on their own.
Instead of saying “Dillon, you are the best at math” or “Tiffany I am so proud of the A you got on your book report”….you could reframe to “Dillon, you seem to really like math and I have noticed you really putting in the effort.” And “Tiffany, your effort on that book report really paid off with this A! How do you feel about having worked so hard for this grade?” Help them make the connection between the effort and the result…with the spotlight always shining brightly on the effort.
2. When things don’t go as planned use it to get better
When our kids fail, have a loss, make a mistake, bring home a low grade (notice I didn’t say bad grade), sometimes we want to go to one of the extremes. We either want to soothe our child or put intense pressure on them. Let’s say your daughter is in a play and she forgets a couple lines during her first performance. On the way home, tears well up in her eyes and your heart breaks for the pain radiating off her. Your first instinct is to tell her “it is ok. You will get it next time.” You just want her to feel better.
Growth mindset speak would go something like this…”What can you learn from this to help you in the next performance?” Or “I know you are upset that you forgot your lines. I love that you want to do your best. How can you get better? What can you do to remember your lines?” You are offering empathy but at the same time helping her grow and learn. You are telling her you are interested in helping her develop and push herself a bit further.
At the other extreme, your son brings home a low grade on a test and you know he didn’t study much. It makes you mad that he didn’t study more for this test and the grade triggers your concern that he isn’t giving his best at school. Even though he is only in Junior High, you’re already feeling fear he isn’t going to get into college. All of this comes up as you see his test score and you react big time. You find yourself mad at him, and you let him know. You focus on the grade in your conversation with him. He hears you are unhappy with this grade and tells you he isn’t capable of more and, worse yet, begins to believe it himself. The conversation turns into an argument and just goes round and rounds in circles.
Instead of saying “I knew you weren’t going to do well on that test” you could say “do you think you put in enough effort to prepare for the test?” You could also ask “what can you learn from this experience?” Instead of saying “I am disappointed in the grade”, you could say “I am disappointed in the effort you put into preparing for the test”. Or better yet you could say “what you did to prepare for this test didn’t hit the mark, what can you do differently next time Focusing on the effort can sometimes be tricky when our kids don’t have passion for something like school. But that’s when you really have to double down and focus on the effort. Sometimes effort isn’t about MORE time; it is about doing it differently. Being open and learning. Sometimes the secret is to first figure out what DOESN’T work and then you can move to what does work.
I have experienced the benefits of speaking growth mindset. In a very short amount of time, I have seen quite a turn around in my boy regarding homework. His dad and I have worked really hard at reprograming our brains and learning to speak growth mindset. Once we shifted our conversation to effort rather than grades, our boy’s mindset began to change. He became open to new ideas, new ways to study and began putting in his own effort into studying.
The biggest benefit? He has a newfound curiosity and enthusiasm about getting it done! And yes his grades have improved. We keep telling him if he puts in the effort, the results will come. We are committed to this mindset for him and for us.
My boy and I were recently talking about growth mindset and he said he likes that his dad isn’t constantly talking about his grades. He feels a sense of relief that we are focusing on effort.
Growth mindset speak is about helping our kids see that they are developing as a person and we are interested in their development.
Go forth and speak growth mindset!
I’d love to hear your thoughts and revelations about this new way. And as always if you have any questions, please reach out. I am here to help. You can reach me directly at [email protected].