The Power of Mindset and the Success of Children
I am blessed with two sons who have been academically adept since they began preschool. While I was proud of what they accomplished year after year in terms of their grades, little did I know that how I praised their accomplishments would eventually hinder their personal growth.
I (and many other parents like me, I’m certain) thought it essential to help our children build their self – esteem. Many of us, however, were doing the opposite by celebrating their victories, and not the journeys they embarked on to achieve those victories. “You’re a natural athlete,” “Math comes so easily to you,” “I’m not surprised that you received a perfect score,” “You’re born gifted,” and “Any college would want to have you as a student” were among my oft – used phrases. My personal favorite was, “You are the Golden Child.”Indeed, we have all used these and similar phrases to reward our children’s achievements. Yet, by using them, we were creating within our children a fixed mindset.
Do you believe in any of the following?
To be a great athlete, you must be born with natural talent.
You can learn new skills, but your intelligence never changes.
Your identity is predetermined.
People cannot change.
All these statements stem from a fixed mindset. Living with a fixed mindset can be detrimental to one’s life and to the success you can attain through it.
When I learned to listen to my inner voice, I was able to overcome my shyness and take the necessary steps to be the person I was meant to be. By changing my mindset from one that’s fixed, to one of growth, I have created a variety of opportunities for myself. It has also enabled me to live a happier and well – intentioned life.
Are you still skeptical about the harm only praising the result of our children’s endeavors can cause? If you are, I’d like to present to you the basketball legend Michael Jordan as an example of the truth of my words. Did you know that Jordan was not born a natural athlete? It’s common knowledge that he was cut from his high school varsity team. He also was not recruited by his preferred college. In fact, he wasn’t even chosen by the first two NBA teams in the draft! Nevertheless, the slogan “I want to be like Mike” was quite popular during his days playing basketball.
Reliance on natural talent is a byproduct of a fixed mindset. If Michael Jordan lived with a fixed mindset, he may have thought he just was not good enough to play in the pros and given up. Rather than think this, he took his trials and tribulations and became the hardest working and most disciplined basketball player of all time. He attributes his success to the mental toughness and his readiness to give it his all.
How did my choice of words hurt my sons? Remember when I said that they consistently received high grades with little to no effort? Whenever they did not earn those great grades, they broke down mentally. The thought that singular instances of below – average performances were indicative of total failure.
Some of us with natural abilities are even known to assume that studying and hard work are for those who are not as intellectually gifted as themselves. This fixed mindset can lead down a slippery slope… the likes of which we may find it difficult to recover from.
We all want to celebrate the success of our children (something which I openly encourage), but it’s important that we verbalize our celebrations properly. Here are some examples of encouraging a growth mindset.
“I am proud of how you studied, because it resulted in you doing well on your exam.”
“That was a great game you had. All your practice paid off.”
“It’s great that you can solve math problems so quickly. What are some other ways we can look at the problems to reach the same answers?”
“I know you worked hard to perform well at your game. Perhaps we can work on some new strategies?”
“You’re still developing new skill sets. I’m here to help.”
“That’s a beautiful drawing! Tell me about it.”
“We all have different ways of learning. Let’s try something new.”
“You played the piano so beautifully. How do you feel while playing it?”
When we learn to praise our children’s efforts and achievements, as opposed to their personal attributes, we give them the ability to grow. This in turn will pave the way for positive change throughout their lives.
Whether you’re a teacher, parent, coach, manager, or leader, encouraging a growth mindset will help to prepare all of us for a more fulfilling life.