The beliefs children have about intelligence, effort, and struggle impact the choices they make about learning. People tend to hold one of two different beliefs about intelligence:
Individuals with a growth mindset believe that intelligence can be developed. These people see school as a place to develop their abilities and think of challenges as opportunities to grow.
Individuals with a fixed mindset believe that intelligence is fixed at birth and doesn’t change or changes very little with practice. These people see school as a place where their abilities are evaluated, they focus on looking smart over learning, and they interpret mistakes are a sign that they lack talent.
The idea of fixed and growth mindset hold true for both adults and children. The way we praise our children can have a profound impact on their mindset. Research on praise and mindsets shows that when we praise children for being smart, it promotes a fixed mindset. It sends a message that their accomplishments are trait-based, and tied to something innate. In contrast, praising kids for working hard promotes a growth mindset. It sends a message that the child’s effort is what led them to success.
Growth Mindset: Say this, Not that
“I can see you worked so hard on this!”
“You are so smart!”
Say this because it helps your children understand the value of their effort.
Don’t say this because it makes them think intelligence is a fixed quality.
“It seems like it’s time to try a new strategy.”
“It’s okay. Maybe you’re just not cut out for this.”
Say this because it lest your children know that they control outcomes by making choices.
Don’t say this because it makes you children think they don’t have the capacity to improve.
“That was really hard. Your effort has paid off. Next time you’ll be ready for this kind of challenge.”
“That was really hard. I’m so glad it’s over and you don’t have to do that again.”
Say this because reminding children of how they were able to overcome challenges by putting forth a lot of effort cultivates a growth mindset.
Don’t say this because there will always be more challenges, and children should feel that they have the tools for what comes next.
“I like watching you do that.”
“You’re a natural at that.”
Say this because it conveys a message of approval of an activity they enjoy doing, regardless of outcome.
Don’t say this because the next time your children fail or make a mistake, they might think they do not have that talent after all.