Dr. Kristin Schaefer-Schiumo| Manhasset NY

How to Develop a Growth Mindset in Your Children

The term growth mindset was coined several years ago while studying how different children react to challenges. What was discovered was that how we praise our children has a tremendous impact on their mindset and, thus, their academic success. Students with a fixed mindset (who believe their intelligence, strengths and talents are set at birth) are more likely to give up, become easily frustrated, and tend to avoid challenges. In comparison, growth mindset children (who believe that intelligence and talent are a starting point but hard work, perseverance and "grit" are what really matter), work harder, take on more challenges, make more improvements, and ultimately perform better than their fixed mindset peers. So, how is the praise of our children connected to their levels of academic success and overall fulfillment in life? As a whole, parents focus their praise on the result rather than on the effort and strategies used to achieve the result. We praise our children for winning a track meet, not for the hours of practice and training completed to achieve the result. Likewise we tend to praise our children for a grade, instead of for the studying and preparation for that test. By praising the effort, training and strategizing used to reach a goal, we are working to foster the development of growth mindset in our children. In this way, they learn that their value lies in their ability to take on challenges, learn from mistakes, and to stick with something even when the task is difficult and the outcome not exactly what was hoped for. By praising our children in this way, we help to develop what Marty Seilgman termed "grit," found to be a better predictor of success than intelligence alone. To be clear, praising to foster growth mindset does not mean being vague or pandering after effort alone. What is growth mindset fostering praise and how can you do it effectively for your children?

  1. Pick two process oriented statements and practice using them to praise your child. Instead of saying "that's a beautiful picture you drew," try "I love your use of so many vibrant colors." Or, instead of saying, "just do your best, not everyone likes science," try instead "when you learn about marine biology and chemistry it grows your view of the world."

  2. Add the powerful word yet. If you hear your child saying "I'm just not good at math, science, reading comprehension...." just add the word yet. This communicates to your children that they always have the potential to learn, grow and change.

  3. Don't say, "don't worry, just keep trying." Praise you children for using different efforts and strategies. Doing the same thing over and over again proves to be only exhausting and demoralizing. Help your children focus on different means to learning, growing, and achieving.

  4. Perfectionism is not the point. Our children learn more from making mistakes than from coming easily to the correct answer. The same is true for us as their parents! Learning from our mistakes is, in fact, part of developing the growth mindset, while beating ourselves up for perceived failure is not.