I think one of the best things we can teach our children is to have a growth and positive mindset.As parents and teachers we have an important influence on our children’s mindsets.
Growth mindsets can be supported by a range of conversations, modelling and classroom practices. Research shows that you can directly teach and influence your child’s growth mindset by creating a culture that supports and promotes growth mindset behaviours and attitudes. When children understand that mistakes are okay, they can always improve and when they think about their thinking they can become more flexible thinkers.
How to teach children about the role of their mindset when challenged and in learning.
A great way to help children to develop a growth mindset is by teaching them how the brain works and how it changes with learning. Studies have shown that when children are taught about the elasticity of the brain, and that it is possible to grow their brains, do better in academic work. Children can learn that when they challenge themselves to learn something new, the brain forms new connections, and over time intellectual ability can be enhanced. Scientists have discovered that the brain grows more when we try to learn something new, and less when we practise things we already know- um cramming for study doesn’t sound like such a good idea anymore! So it is by challenging yourself with new learning that you an grow your brain more.
How do we develop a culture that encourages growth mindsets?
Growth mindset can be supported when effort is expected and valued. I think the challenge for us as parents and educators is to avoid praising fast and easy work or answers that the child has done little effort to produce. We don’t want our children to think that doing things quickly and easily is valued as a reflection of their ability. We also need to be aware that vague praise is not the best way as the child becomes unsure what they have done right when you say things like “Good work” or “well done”. It’s much better to say things like “I could see that was hard for you but you persevered and got there” or “It is great to see you trying to complete that even when you are struggling”. When students perform tasks quickly or easily, this means they were not challenged and very little learning occurred. We need children to understand that we value effort that leads to learning rather than praising effort for its own sake.
When we encourage a growth mindset for our children we are teaching them to embrace challenges. When your child faces a challenge or gets stuck on a task this is the perfect opportunity for learning about how they can grow their brain.
It is tricky but we have to remember that letting our children struggle and avoid jumping in to fix every problem that we are giving them the opportunity to work through problems, figure out answers and invent strategies for themselves. Jumping in to help conveys the message that their frustration should be minimised and prevents students from developing resilience and problem-solving skills. When we don’t jump in to solve problems or provide answers, we are giving our children the message that we believe they can do it. And in doing so we are helping them to create a growth mindset!
Growth mindsets prioritise learning by learning that :
Trying and failing is part of the process
Learning requires stumbling, correcting, and growing
You don’t have to know everything in advance
Practice and skill-building are more important than embedded talent
You’re always a beginner
Life is about life-long learning