Over the past few years there has been a lot of discussion in education and parenting circles about growth mindset.
Stanford researcher, Carol Dweck developed the theory to help understand why some students were succeeding at school. These days there is a greater understanding that a growth mindset applies to many areas of life.
According to Dweck, there are two types of mindsets: a fixed mindset and a growth mindset.
Fixed mindset people believe that traits such as intelligence & talent in any area are fixed and cannot be changed. You either have it or you don’t, and no amount of effort is going to change that. They think that you are born with a certain amount of talent or ability and that’s all you have.
With a growth mindset, people have a belief that their intelligence (or other traits) can be improved by learning, effort and persistence and they can learn new things and get better at things. They understand that effort influences success.
When you move this into area’s other than academic studies, a growth mindset is a belief that no matter how difficult things get, we can emerge from the experience stronger, wiser and more capable.
Growth Mindset and Mental Health
Having a growth mindset builds resilience, a key contributor to good mental health in both kids and adults.
A Harvard University Study by Jessica Schleider, Madeline Abel and John Weisz, tested whether a growth mindset intervention could improve ability to cope with stress and reduce anxiety and depression in high-symptom adolescents. In the short-term, having a growth mindset boosted physiological recovery following a socially stressful task. Nine months later, youths who received the mindset intervention also showed significantly larger declines for depression, as well as encouraging results for anxiety.
The research also had similar results in university age students.
There is a clear correlation between developing a growth mindset in children and their ability to tackle mental health challenges.
Developing a Growth Mindset in Kids
Now we can see the positive outcomes from having a growth mindset, how do we develop it in our kids.
Here are 3 tips to get you started.
Use encouragement. Praise the process and your child’s effort and strategies. Don’t praise the results.
Kids need to hear comments such as “You worked hard to get that right!”(effort), “That was a smart idea to tackle the hardest task while you were fresh!”(strategy) and “You recognised the first few steps were the most important but then after that you were right.”(action). Use words like “not yet” instead of “can’t”
Let your child fail, and ensure they keep trying – help them develop perseverance. Mistakes are part of the learning process for children. Be there to talk through what didn’t work and how they might improve next time. Don’t give them the answers, just give them guidance on how to find the answer.
Walk the Walk. Make sure you watch your own words and fixed mindset. Develop a growth mindset and use growth mindset language around your children so they can see you learning and growing. Modelling is the best teaching method there is.