When we have children, some of us get as much information we can from books, advice from friends or the plethora of knowledge found on the internet. Others go with their inner instincts and do what they feel is right. In the end, everyone wants to raise their children as successfully as possible.
There are many ways we can support, teach and encourage our children but when it comes to the way we speak, are we cultivating a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset
Most of the time, the difference between instilling a growth mindset or a fixed mindset in a child is very subtle. Both can involve praise but one places value on the process of learning while the other one is fixed on the outcome of learning.
A growth mindset creates a passion for learning rather than a hunger for approval which a fixed mindset is more likely to achieve. It’s especially important in children where cultivating a growth mindset will form a notion of non-failure. In other words, a fixed mindset will cause a child to perceive failure if they haven’t achieved a task, whereas a child with a growth mindset is unlikely to see themselves as failing despite not having achieved what they set out to achieve.
Examples of Common Fixed and Growth Mindset Phrases
Growth mindset is all about emphasis on a child’s capability rather than on how smart and intelligent they are. Here are some common conversations that show the difference between each mindset.
Fixed Mindset: “You got the answer correct, well done. You’re so smart!”
Growth Mindset: “You got the answer correct, well done. You worked so hard to understand that and you did it!”
Fixed Mindset: “You finished that puzzle so quickly! You’re really good at those – well done!”
Growth Mindset: “Well done! How about you try a more challenging puzzle? I think you can do it!”
Why The Growth Mindset Is So Important
Dr. Carol Dweck is a leading pioneer in mindset research at Stanford University and believes that the growth mindset is essential in encouragement, confidence and, ultimately, success. When a child tries to do something for the first time, their thoughts aren’t tied to how well they perform the task or how smart they are; it’s more important that they understand that it’s not all or nothing – there’s unlimited opportunity to try and try again.
It’s all about cultivating a level of self-worth within a child and allowing them to be more fearless of failure and more confident when undertaking tasks.
Dweck and colleagues conducted a study involving seventh-grade children who started their school year with almost identical test scores. All the children were evaluated for signs of a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Over the course of two years, there was a consistent difference in grades between the two groups.
It turned out the children with fixed mindsets had distinctly different goals: they were more prone to avoiding tasks that might show a deficiency in themselves, while the children with a growth mindset had a belief that intelligence could be developed and therefore learned new things at all costs.
When Should You Start Instilling A Growth Mindset?
Studies show that it’s never too early or too late to encourage a growth mindset in a child. Most children naturally have a growth mindset but the feedback we give them has a huge influence on whether this turns into a fixed mindset. As parents, we are very eager to praise our children but are sometimes unaware of how our child interprets the feedback.
Obviously, the optimal time to encourage growth mindset is from the moment a child develops the understanding of language, but this doesn’t mean that there is no hope for older children – it can be easily introduced and practised later on as well.
Most older children have a combination of growth and fixed mindsets about a number of different things depending on experience, but as a parent, you can help to encourage the growth mindset to blossom with careful wording, support and optimism.