What is the mindset of a champion? “It goes by different names, but it’s the same thing. It’s what makes you practice, and it’s what allows you to dig down and pull it out when you most need it,” wrote Carol S. Dweck, Ph.D. Stanford University. In her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success she explains two belief systems—fixed versus growth mindsets.
“In one world—the world of fixed traits—success is about proving you’re smart or talented. Validating yourself. In the other—the world of changing qualities—it’s about stretching yourself to learn something new. Developing yourself,” she said.
“People in a growth mindset don’t just seek challenge, they thrive on it. The bigger the challenge, the more they stretch. And nowhere can it be seen more clearly than in the world of sports. You can just watch people stretch and grow.”
Mindset is packed full of studies, research and entertaining stories about fixed and growth mindset athletes, coaches, teachers and parents. I learned about the attitudes of great athletes like Michael Jordan and Jackie Joyner-Kersee and coaches who had opposing mindsets—John Wooden and Bob Knight.
According to Dweck, kids abilities may start at different levels with varying talent, but those with a growth mindset most often exceed those with a fixed mindset. Kids with a fixed mindset may not try as hard, because they believe it makes them look less talented. People have a mixture of both mindsets—and because mindsets are beliefs—they can be changed. We should encourage our kids to have growth mindsets because they will learn to work harder and smarter, how to persevere and achieve more than they would with a fixed mindset. Sending a child a fixed mindset message “makes their confidence and motivation more fragile,” Dweck wrote.
Here are a few tips about encouraging a growth mindset in our kids:
ONE: Praise EFFORT not GIFTS
Be careful how we praise. If we praise our children for their gifts, such as brains or athletic talent, they may believe those qualities are fixed and cannot be changed. According to Dweck, when parents praised their kids’ intelligence, their IQ scores actually went down! Instead, we need to praise effort and connect that to success. We need to practice praising the process.
TWO: Your own Mindset. Is it Growth?
Watch our own mindset. If we approach life with a fixed mindset, we may transfer that outlook to our kids. A fixed mindset can make us believe we can’t learn new things or we have no way to improve our work. This outlook leads people to give up. That’s definitely not what parents want for our kids—or for ourselves.
THREE: Goals for Expanding Skills
Set goals about expanding skills. According to Dweck, “Remember that innate talent isn’t a goal. Expanding skills and knowledge is.” Are we sending a message that we are judging our kids for their talent? Or, are we telling them that they are a developing person and we’re interested in helping them grow?