Growth Mindset and Carol Dweck have been getting a lot of play in the news lately, at least in the news feeds I read.
Growth Mindset is the belief that your intelligence or talents are not stuck, or fixed, at one level from birth. You can learn and improve by putting your effort to the task. A growth mindset is what we want to build for ourselves and our children.
Growth mindset assumes that mistakes, failures, and working to overcome challenges are signs of learning. Being willing to work hard to learn something is a strength.
People with a fixed mindset, who believe their intelligence is a number they were born with which cannot change, see mistakes and struggle as a blow to their self-image. They don’t see the possibility of change and often avoid things that require effort.
Many articles come to the conclusion that you just switch from praising the product to praising the process or effort put in. But that doesn’t deal with problems any praise can cause, and how we switch to a growth mindset for ourselves.
So how do we model growth and move away from fixed?
Here are four tips that I learned the hard way. I hope they can help you avoid problematic praise and parental guilt.
1. Zip the lips and skip the praise.
I wish I’d kept quiet and let him have his feelings about what he was doing, instead of me inserting my judgment. I wish I’d silently slowed down to notice what kind of learning was taking place. I could have stored or recorded those observations for later discussion or to give me ideas about what might be useful.
Hindsight….Ahh well, we all make mistakes, and as we know better, we can do better and choose to work on modeling our growth mindset.
2. Pay attention to how you talk about yourself.
How many times did I model the opposite of growth mindset with what I said about myself? Too many times to count I was muttering or wailing in front of my child, ” I’m so disorganized, I’m not good with computers, I’m just not good at grammar.”
Instead, I could have been saying,
“Wow, this is hard for me, but I know I can get better if I work at it.”
“Oh, that’s what I did wrong, my mistake was _________, next time I’ll try __________.”
“I’m so excited, I thought I couldn’t do this, but I figured out this little step..”
3. Encourage with questions that build self-awareness and self-reliance.
I can remember when I wanted to ease the hurt I saw. I felt the pain of Dale’s frustration with stuttering or reading. I wanted to make those bad feelings disappear. A very typical parent reaction but not helpful to our kids in the long run. Helping them learn to build resilience and deal with difficulty is a critical life skill.
My attempts to rush or ignore the feelings, or to say, “Don’t worry, you are good at….” made things worse, not better.
I wish I’d learned much sooner to:
- pay attention to my feelings and deal with my discomfort
- help him identify and acknowledge what he was feeling, and to support working through the feelings without rushing
- ask questions to help him see his strengths and choices in how to deal with difficulties
I still get to work at learning how to do this better when I interact with my adult child.
4. Let your unconditional love shine through all the time.
Remember, your love and enthusiasm for your child can be shown at any time.
Try to notice if you are showing your love and enthusiasm conditionally – only when there is an achievement you approve of. This can take a tough dose of honest reflection. It’s a cultural norm most of us have been raised with and deal with in the workplace, so it is easy to fall into an unconscious pattern of saving our happy, loving faces for praising outcomes we want.
Modeling that we love ourselves even though we are not perfect can be a lifelong challenge!
Do you have a growth mindset? How about your child?
Does praise pop out all the time? Is it hard to zip your lips?
How do you encourage yourself and your child?
Is it easy or hard for you to model unconditional love? Why?
What small step will you take to where you want to get?
Let’s talk in the comments. Lisa