Each January rolls around and with it comes excitement & anticipation for the year ahead. We often make RESOLUTIONS about things we want to change, so we task ourselves with new goals and challenges.
These resolutions require us to make BEHAVIOR CHANGES.
Psychologists would say the best way to make behavior changes is by changing your SELF STORY. Everyone has stories about themselves that drive their behavior. We all have a “STORY” operating about ourselves at all times. These stories influence our decisions and actions; thereby our behavior.
We make our decisions based on staying true to our “SELF STORIES”.
This led me to think about how we all grow up with a self story & how that can be changed & influenced over time? Is it our environment, our experiences that form our self stories? What are the characteristics of people who achieve their potential and have endless motivation vs. those who aren’t as driven?
Then I remembered the work of Carol Dweck whose teachings I learned in graduate school. She is considered one of the world’s experts on MOTIVATION. Her theory of Growth Mindset vs. Fixed Mindset and how this applies to learning, motivation and challenging oneself gives us some insight.
The fixed mindset applies to people who think their abilities, talents and intelligence are fixed traits. They believe they only have a certain amount and that intelligence is determined at birth.
Those who have a growth mindset believe that intelligence and abilities are things that can be developed & cultivated throughout your life. They believe that everyone through their own efforts, dedication, schooling & experience can grow.
Children with growth mindsets believe that the harder you work at something, the better you’ll be at it. They understand that no highly successful person, or creative genius accomplished what they had without hard work and grit.
In comparison, kids with a fixed mindset believe that effort is negative. They believe if you have ability, you shouldn’t need effort. They believe things come easily to those that are really smart.
Depending on the mindset a child may have affects how they react to setbacks too. For example, receiving a low grade on a test…a kid with a fixed mindset might say, “I wasn’t smart enough” and a child with a growth mindset might realize they didn’t study hard enough, or maybe study in the right way. They are willing to keep trying to do their best.
How does all this impact the messages we give our children?
When we give just outward praise, “You’re so smart”, “You’re such a great artist” without praising the effort, the dedication and the motivation behind it, the message is that the EFFORT isn’t as important. In fact, Dweck says “Praise can drain a child’s self-esteem and sap motivation”.
In measuring this theory, Dweck found that praise alone, ie. telling a child you’re so intelligent, often causes a fixed mindset. Most of the students who were praised for intelligence chose an easy task when tested. They wanted to continue looking and feeling smart. When a child was praised for their efforts, they were more willing to try a greater challenge.
If we understand that praise without acknowledging the effort is not the best way of fostering motivation in our children, what can we do as parents to assist with developing a growth mindset?
- Listen for negative “self talk”. Are they afraid to challenge themselves for fear of failure?
- Let them know we all face obstacles & challenges. Share stories of your own fears & how you overcame them through hard work & effort.
- When you hear your child express that they don’t have the “smarts”, the “talent”, or the “skill” for something, explain to them that most things require practice.
- Talk to them about learning from mistakes. Use an example of something they’ve experienced.
- Ask them to think about their heroes, or people they admire. Point out the hard work it took for them to get there.
Components of intelligence can be developed within all of us through a growth mindset. Neuroscience has seen that there is plasticity in the brain.
“There is no substitute for hard work” – Thomas Edison