There is a lot to be said about how powerful our brains are and just how important it is to have a positive mindset while navigating through life. Teaching this to children from a young age can be most beneficial as it shapes them in so many ways, particularly when it comes to how they see success and failures. Not only is it important for children to recognize success and failure, but how they see it as well. Is success something that comes as a result of talent and failure as a sign that one should accept defeat? How children respond to circumstances in their life will guide them to taking certain next steps or accepting things for simply what they are and not going after more. What we are talking about is the difference between a fixed mindset, and a growth mindset.
Dr. Carol Dweck, a psychologist, author, and professor at Stanford University has done tremendous research in the field of psychology, in particular her research focuses on motivation, personality and social development. Dr. Dweck believes that some people have a fixed mindset which limits them from pursuing higher achievement due to the belief that success comes from natural ability and that if one does not achieve certain success, or experiences certain failures, that it is due to the innate ability or lack thereof an individual, while others have a growth mindset which means they believe that success is a product of hard work, perseverance, and learning from mistakes, failures, and setbacks.
In Dr. Dweck’s research, she has found that when children are given praise for the process, their hard work, the focus they have, and the strategies used for problem-solving as a way to complete a task, that it helps them to learn what challenge seeking and resilience is. This results in them building their self-esteem, improving their self-efficacy and outlook on pursuing future challenges. She found that when children are praised on talent or intelligence alone, it can send the message that what comes naturally for one is what counts, and if something does not come easily, or if there is failure upon attempt, it is less likely for the child to want to try to overcome this as they see it as defeat and may give up as if they have to accept defeat. Another study that Dr. Dweck was involved in taught students that whenever they tried to learn something that was particularly challenging and outside of their ability or comfort zone, this caused the neurons in the brain to form stronger connections and that overtime, the students could become smarter. The students who were given this information had an increase in their grades as a result of this, compared to the students who were not given this information and had shown a decrease in their grades. This study has been repeated with thousands of students across the country and the results remain similar each time.
When educators create a growth-mindset environment for their students, regardless of their race, gender, and socioeconomic status, the results are always positive. There are children all over the country, in lower income or statistically underperforming schools, that consistently struggle and show poor academic performance to which some people may feel is inevitable, however, when the message of growth-mindset is communicated, equality is possible. Educators who have put this into practice have had massive success in transforming previously underperforming students to some of the highest achievers in school districts throughout the country.
Parents and educators have the ability to transform the way that children see themselves and their capabilities. When a child understands that with hard work and consistent efforts to improve, their successes have no limits, it will motivate and inspire great achievements. While it is still understandable that a parent or teacher would want to congratulate a child for an accomplishment or praise them for being smart or talented, it is important to also provide support and positivity to them in areas that do not necessarily come as easily. Letting children know that they can achieve anything they set their mind to, isn’t just something nice to say, it is powerful and there is truth behind those words that can light a spark in them that motivates and inspires them to be the best versions of themselves.
For more resources on growth mindset, grit, and motivation, visit the following websites:
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