“I can’t do it.”
“It’s too hard.”
We hear these statements from children throughout the day. It’s not only a comment about the difficult task at hand, it is actually an opportunity to teach children about resiliency, how to take on challenges, how to make mistakes, and how to have a growth mindset. Having a growth mindset and teaching children how to solve problems leads to greater success and future ability to solve problems.
Carol Dweck of Stanford University asserts that teaching children that intelligence is not a “fixed” state helps them understand that through effort they can grow and become successful. This gives them a sense of control in their world. Intelligence is not something that you are just born with and you are lucky or not in the brain department. Instead, working to teach children to adopt a growth mindset will help them be more successful and more resilient. A growth mindset asserts that intelligence is not solely innate and that you can increase your capacity, “build your brain”, by working to learn new things. It encourages taking on new challenges in spite of potential failure. The state of mind promotes flexibility and engagement. A fixed mindset teaches children to care about being “smart” or “not smart.” This mindset inhibits learning and discourages taking learning risks, because if you can’t do something right away, the child equates it to not being smart. It’s not safe to try something that might be difficult.
What we know as adults is that no one becomes successful without work, risk, and failure. Making mistakes is a part of life and teaching children this is a powerful lesson. It is essential to teach children that life is full of challenges and indeed it is important how we tackle these challenges and how we bounce back from hardship. The message becomes practice makes better not practice makes perfect. Look for progress, not perfection.
Steps to fostering a growth mindset in children:
- Praise the process and effort, not the product. Say to children, “Wow, you worked really hard on that project” as opposed to “your project looks great.”
- Create and model a culture of making mistakes and learning from them.
- Help children identify when they have a fixed mindset and move them to a growth mindset.
- Model resilience and problem solving.
- Give children the opportunity to solve their own problems.
A man's mistakes are his portals of discovery. - James Joyce
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