Last year, when I was completing my Personal Growth Plan for the new year, I decided that my one word or theme for the year would be “grow.” I decided to read several books on personal growth to go along with this theme of having a growth mindset. One book, in particular, made quite an impact on the way I thought about myself and the way I parent my children.
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The concepts in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success (2006), by Stanford psychologist Dr. Carol Dweck will have you analyzing the way you think about yourself and the way you talk to your children.
You may have grown up in a fixed mindset home like I did. If your parents ever told that you were the smart one or the artistic one or the athletic one, you might have a fixed mindset.
What Is a Fixed Mindset?
A fixed mindset comes from the belief that your qualities are a fixed part of who you are and cannot be changed. If you have a fixed mindset, you believe that your personality, creativity, and intelligence are fixed at birth.
Our parents and our teachers have an enormous influence on the way we think about ourselves. That is why it is so important to choose our words carefully when talking to our children.
If you have a fixed mindset, you likely spend more time trying to prove that you are “smart” or “athletic” or “artistic” or “talented” in some way, rather than working on improving that characteristic.
A huge problem with the fixed mindset is that if you fail in the area that you believe you are inherently good at, it can have an adverse impact on your self-esteem and self-worth.
Why Having a Fixed Mindset Impedes Growth
Those with a fixed mindset often fail to explore areas that they think they are not inherently good at for fear of failure.
Have you ever heard someone say “I’m not very creative” or “I’m not good at math?” I’m sure you have. In fact, you may have even said these things about yourself.
Those with a fixed mindset also fail to develop or improve the areas they feel they are talented in for fear of failure. Rather than challenging themselves, a person with a fixed mindset will find ways to validate their inherent gift.
Personally, I can relate to this way of thinking.
School always came easy to me, and I often felt like I didn’t have to study as hard as others to do well. When I did well on a test or project, I felt validated. But when I didn’t do well on a test or project, I felt shame and humiliation.
A healthier mindset would have allowed me to reflect on what went wrong and work on improving my effort for the next test or project.
Does this way of thinking resonate with you?
How to Cultivate a Growth Mindset
Dweck acknowledges that people’s natural abilities vary widely. What she’s advocating is that we all can change and grow through effort, application, and experience.
A growth mindset comes from the belief that you can strengthen your basic qualities through effort, dedication, and hard work.
Those with a growth mindset have a passion for learning rather than a need for approval.
To cultivate a growth mindset, you must accept that practice and perseverance are the ways to improvement and growth.
Practical Ways To Cultivate A Growth Mindset In Your Children
If you are a parent, cultivating a growth mindset in your children is so important.
Parents have to work hard at carefully choosing the words they tell their children. Equally important are the words that come from the mouths of our children’s teachers.
We’re fortunate that our son goes to a school where they have adopted the concept of cultivating a growth mindset in their students.
On the first day of school, my son came home and told me that his teacher loves it when he makes mistakes. I had finished reading Dweck’s Mindset earlier in the year so you can imagine my delight when he told me this news.
This belief that we learn from our mistakes and can grow and learn from them is really the heart of the growth mindset.
Trust me, I know that cultivating a growth mindset can be difficult if you’re coming from a fixed mindset.
Modeling a Growth Mindset
I have to admit that I’m still a work in progress. I sometimes slip and say things like, “You’ll do fine. You’re smart.” When what I should be saying is, “you are working so hard to learn this new concept. You should be proud of your effort.”
I also still fall into the fixed mindset when thinking about my own failures or strengths. But I know that the best way to teach my children is by modeling the behavior I value.
That’s why I now make an effort to verbally acknowledge my failures. I also openly discuss ways I can learn and improve from them with my children.
When my kids now that mommy isn’t perfect and can improve, they will learn to adopt this way of thinking about themselves.
How about you? Do you come from a growth mindset or a fixed mindset?
What do you think of this concept?
With Love and Joy,