The consensus on intelligence is that it is fixed, and certain people are naturally talented at tasks while others are poor at it. This attitude in both adults and children is responsible for people never learning new skills of upgrading themselves throughout their lives. Researchers in the last few decades have come to understand that intelligence can be developed, and the right mindset can go a long way in determining people’s learning abilities. The growth mindset is a concept born out of all that psychologists have learned about how our minds work. Continue reading for all you need to know about it how to develop it.
What Is Growth Mindset?
The growth mindset concept was developed by Carol Dweck after extensive studies that showed that children who persevered through challenges believed that they could do better or improve. While on the other hand, kids who fell back from facing challenges believed they couldn’t improve their abilities.
The concept applies to all areas of learning. Writing, for example, is one area where it is quite evident. Children who scored lower grades on a few papers would stop trying to improve if they believe they are bad at writing. This is what is called a fixed mindset. However, if they believe they can gradually improve and develop their writing skills, that is a growth mindset.
Everybody has fixed and growth mindsets when it comes to all areas in their lives. We have not set much of it in stone and mostly depends on the kind of experiences we have had and the feedback we have had. Having a growth mindset is not only about accepting feedback and being open-minded. It is also about learning from the experience and applying the feedback to develop strategies to improve in the areas in life we are lacking. Most of all, it believes that it is possible to succeed even if you fail multiple times.
Importance of Growth Mindset for Children
A growth mindset must be encouraged in children because:
1. It would increase their love for learning.
When children have a fixed mindset, they wouldn’t want to try new things out of their comfort zone for fear of looking dumb. Most children would rather look smart by doing things they are familiar with and good at. Over time this creates an attitude of selectively avoiding lots of topics throughout their learning years so they can focus only on things they can demonstrate they are good at. This makes them miss out on learning new things that they might enjoy more if they worked harder. With a growth mindset, children can enjoy taking up challenges and learn new things.
2. Better results in examinations.
This is one area where the effect of a growth mindset can even be measured! Children with a growth mindset score higher grades than those with a fixed mindset as they can overcome challenges. With a growth mindset, children are willing to put effort into the ‘harder’ subjects and improve in subsequent exams. These results were observed by Dweck as well in students who are at the same level in a subject. Those with a growth mindset improved in the subsequent exam as the goal was to learn even if it meant looking dull in front of their peers.
3. It sets them up for life.
Everybody knows that life itself is the ultimate challenge, and there’s little we can pick and choose when it comes to challenges. With a growth mindset from kindergarten, children are better prepared for unexpected challenges everywhere in life. On top of that, they will also openly embrace work and personal life challenges to move forward. They will understand that the price of learning great things is sometimes to make mistakes, fail at tasks, and even make a fool of themselves and yet stay unfazed and move ahead.
Difference Between Fixed Mindset and Growth Mindset
Here are some of the differences between fixed and growth mindset:
- Giving up versus persistence: Children who believe intelligence is genetic and there’s nothing they can do about it quickly give up on demanding tasks thinking they are not smart enough. On the other hand, a growth mindset makes them believe that regardless of their intelligence, hard work can take help them accomplish goals. A growth mindset can foster resilience and persistence and motivate children, while a fixed mindset kills it.
- Lack of confidence versus confidence: Children who have a fixed mindset often interpret difficulty in demanding tasks that they are deficient in and don’t have what it takes. Since success is always associated with being smart, failure can bring up feelings of inadequacy. With a growth mindset, children are told that their results might not always be what they expect them to be, and it’s okay to lose confidence when that happens. However, it’s more important to get back up and continue or try again.
- Avoiding challenges versus embracing challenges: Children with fixed mindsets dread challenges as it comes with the risk of failure and looking bad. So when given a choice, they would rather pick an easy task over it. This also means they have limited scope to grow and acquire new skills. With a growth mindset, challenges are enticing because of the prospects of achievement they can bring. Therefore children with a growth mindset embrace challenges and move ahead at any task.
- Hiding struggle versus seeking help: Children who associate their capacity to solve problems solely with intelligence hide their struggle for fear of appearing dull in front of others. On the other hand, children who believe results largely depend on efforts are more likely to seek help and learn to move forward. Rather than perceiving mistakes and failures as a lack of talent, they work harder to achieve goals.
How to Teach Growth Mindset to Kids
Your growth mindset lesson plans should include these essential tips:
1. Tell them it’s okay to be wrong.
Trying something new means risking failure and being wrong about the choices they make. However, nothing of value has ever been invented or discovered without taking a wrong step and correcting it at a later attempt. Teaching children that it is okay to be wrong will free them up for any challenge and prepare them confidently for the effort.
2. Teach them to try new approaches and ideas.
There is always more than one way to solve most problems they encounter at school or any activity. If they are struggling with one method, suggest they try out something else that might work. Even if you are tempted to hint at it, allow them to come up with it through a brainstorming session.
3. Hard problems without an end solution at sight are great for practice.
Advanced math problems that require multiple steps to solve that are little challenges on their own are a great way to let them take on challenges that require a systematic approach. Solving these types of problems builds confidence and dexterity of thought that is different from answers that come from rote memorization of the procedure.
4. Let “Mistakes help me grow” be their mantra.
It’s important for them to see mistakes as an essential part of their growth. When children solve problems easily, it shows that they already had knowledge of how to solve it. While solving something challenging for the first time will more likely lead to a mistake. Therefore teach them the mantra “mistakes help me grow” when they get something wrong.
5. Teach them to be more aware of their problem-solving approaches.
Problem-solving approaches can vary from child to child. So it is more than just following a series of steps to an answer. Teach them to pay attention to why they took one approach over the other. For example, they draw a solution before implementing a step, or do they have it written out in words?
6. Talk openly about mistakes.
Talking about mistakes isn’t an exercise in being humble. It is about the exchange of ideas about how they ended up there and how they worked their way out of it. If a mistake has them at a dead end with no solution, talking about it openly can help them get better solutions.
7. Efforts over results.
Although all tasks are meant to achieve results, too much result-oriented focus can sometimes interfere with learning. Teach them to put the emphasis more on the effort and to give it their all, and the result will follow.
8. Encourage persistence.
Acknowledge their efforts and persistence every time you get a chance to do it. It need not necessarily be praise every time, but a simple word such ad “I see you’re working hard” is all it takes.
9. Encourage the use of the word “yet” often.
This can seem trivial but has tremendous power to it. When your child says, “I don’t know how to solve this,” reply with “ I don’t know how to solve this yet.” This simple change can build a powerful growth mindset that they will carry their whole life.
10. Growth mindset can sometimes be shaky.
It is not always easy to hold the growth mindset, especially in the event of a hard failure. Children will need some time to gain perspective and gain back their confidence to try again. Forcing them to have a growth mindset at all times can also be unrealistic. Getting a growth mindset book for kids subsequently can help with coming up with solutions to big problems.
A growth mindset is an attitude that needs to be cultivated in all children from a young age. Although intelligence has a genetic component, it mostly makes a difference at peak performance in specific tasks, hard work and a growth mindset are important components for results in all other areas of life.