As I spoke with various children, including my own, about their experiences in school, a common theme emerged: the topic of a growth mindset.
But I couldn’t help feeling a bit dismayed when I delved deeper into what they actually understood about it.
I was curious and asked them to explain what a growth mindset meant to them, but to my surprise, many of them were unable to provide a clear answer. It left me feeling a mix of frustration and concern that something so important to their academic and personal development was not being fully grasped or emphasized enough.
The most common misunderstanding about growth mindset that I learn from children and parents are as follows…
Giving praises will foster a growth mindset
Praises help, I like praises too. But I don’t like it when someone tells me “Good Job!” because I don’t understand which part of the job I did was good.
To be more specific what was good and praise is only part of the growth mindset puzzle.
A person can achieve anything as long as the person tries hard enough
One good example is getting superb results in academics. I teach and I see students pushing themselves really hard to study so that they can score well during the exams. They study for hours and memorise the whole textbook when the exam is near but when the results came back, it was way below their expectations.
You see, a growth mindset is about putting in the effort, being persistent, and using the right strategies so that one can improve their skills and abilities. It does not mean that someone can achieve anything without limits or barriers at the last minute.
A person doesn’t have to work too hard as long as the person has natural talents or abilities.
This is one of the biggest common misunderstandings of all! Let’s talk about
Steve Jobs. We know that Steve Jobs is best known for his work as an entrepreneur and innovator, he also had a natural talent for design and aesthetics.
However, he worked tirelessly to refine his abilities and create products that were both beautiful and functional. He spent countless hours working with his team to create products that truly represented his vision.
How about Mozart? Another example of a natural talent who also put in immense effort to develop his abilities is the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Mozart displayed an incredible musical aptitude from a young age, but he also spent countless hours practising, composing, and studying music theory. In fact, it’s been estimated that Mozart composed more than 600 works in his short life.
By identifying and clarifying common misunderstandings, individuals and groups can also avoid confusion, miscommunication, and misapplication of the concept. This can be especially important when teaching a growth mindset to children or using it in educational or workplace settings.
In addition, identifying and correcting misunderstandings can help prevent the spread of misinformation and incorrect assumptions about a concept, which can lead to negative consequences. For example, if someone believes that having a growth mindset means they can achieve anything without limitations, they may become overly frustrated or disillusioned when they encounter obstacles or setbacks that they cannot overcome.
Overall, clarifying misunderstandings about growth mindset and other concepts can lead to a more accurate and effective application of the concept, and can help individuals and groups achieve their goals more successfully.
Now that we have clarified the misunderstanding, let’s dive into the pains that many parents encountered when nurturing a growth mindset in children and how to tackle them.
Frustration with Setbacks
I have seen my children struggle with setbacks and it is very heartbreaking for me, especially when witnessing their frustration and disappointment when things don’t go as they planned.
At times, they gave up and I wonder how can I help them to stay motivated and focused, even in the face of setbacks.
Here are some of the strategies that I have researched and have worked for my children and me in helping us stay motivated and focused.
- Failure is not weakness: Whenever a child experience failure, we should encourage them that failure is not a sign of weakness, but rather an opportunity to learn and grow so as to improve their skills.
- Focus on progress: Celebrate our child’s progress and the effort they put in regardless of achieving the goal, rather than just the end result.
- Break down goals: Help your child break down a larger goal into smaller, achievable steps so that it is less intimidating and easier to accomplish.
Fear of Failure
Many of us encounter this common challenge that can hinder the development of a growth mindset, especially when it comes to children.
Here are some tips for helping children overcome their fear and embrace challenges:
- Normalize failure: Let your child know that failure is a natural part of the learning process and that everyone makes mistakes.
- Reframe failure: Teach your child to view failure as an opportunity to learn and grow, rather than a reflection of their abilities.
- Encourage risk-taking: Help your child take calculated risks, and support them through the process, whether they succeed or not.
Comparison to Others
Children, similarly to adults, often compare themselves to their peers, and this can be a major obstacle to developing a growth mindset. With the availability of social media content, children may compare themselves more to others than they do in other contexts.
Here are some ways to encourage individual progress and development:
- Celebrate individual strengths: Help your child identify their unique strengths and talents, and celebrate them.
- Emphasize effort over ability: Focus on the effort your child puts in, rather than their innate abilities or talent.
- Avoid excessive praise: While it’s important to acknowledge your child’s achievements, excessive praise can create pressure and lead to comparisons with others.
Lack of Motivation
This is the hardest to tackle. Children easily experience a lack of motivation when faced with challenges.
Here are some strategies for inspiring children to work hard and persist in the face of challenges:
- Set achievable goals: Help your child set goals that are challenging but achievable, and celebrate their progress along the way.
- Provide autonomy: Give your child some autonomy in their learning, and encourage them to take ownership of their goals and progress.
- Make it fun: Try to make learning and practising skills enjoyable and engaging, rather than a chore.
Finally, negative self-talk can pose a significant challenge to cultivating a growth mindset, particularly in today’s prevalent use of social media.
Here are some tips for reframing self-talk and developing a growth mindset:
- Help your child identify negative self-talk: Encourage your child to recognize negative self-talk, and help them replace it with more positive self-talk.
- Teach self-compassion: Teach your child to be kind to themselves, and to treat themselves with the same compassion they would offer to a friend.
- Encourage a growth mindset: Help your child understand that their abilities and talents can be developed through hard work and dedication, rather than being predetermined.
Nurturing a growth mindset in children is an ongoing process that requires patience, persistence, and support.
By understanding common pains and solutions for helping children overcome them, parents can better support their children in developing the skills and mindset necessary to succeed in school and beyond.