What makes people succeed while others fail? Ask a hundred people and you’d get a hundred different answers in return, but apart from the usual answers that include proper goal-setting, perseverance and self-confidence, there’s one more element that doesn’t get enough attention: cultivating a growth mindset.
First concepted by Dr Carol Dweck more than 30 years ago, a growth mindset is a belief system about one’s abilities and intelligence. Simply put, those who successfully cultivate a growth mindset understand that anything can be learned with enough time and effort, and that there is no limit to their capacity for intellectual growth. The growth mindset’s counterpart is the fixed mindset, which believes that a person is born with their level of ability and intelligence, and that it is impossible for them to become even smarter than they already are.
Children with fixed mindsets tend to believe that they are ‘stuck’ with their known skill sets, and tend to reassure themselves that their failures were expected because it was always beyond them. Maybe they’re convinced that they’re just naturally lousy at Maths problems, or it’s too late for them to pick up Chinese at the secondary school level.
In contrast, a child with a growth mindset believes that failure is just a part of their learning process and has nothing to do with their intelligence or abilities. For them, that algebra test merely indicated that they have more to learn, and that they will do better once they gain a better understanding of the topic. They would also convince themselves to start reading Chinese books or watching TV shows in Mandarin to help themselves learn the language in their own way.
That’s why it’s important that we teach our children to consciously adopt and practise having a growth mindset. It helps them to push beyond preconceived limitations and better themselves, while equipping them with the self-belief and motivation needed to excel in whatever they do.
Eager to start teaching your child about the growth mindset and how they should adopt it? Besides doing more research on your own regarding the topic, here are three actionable tips to help your child get started with cultivating a growth mindset.
#1: Teach your child to believe in themselves.
“Believe in yourself.” It’s a cliche phrase used everywhere from motivational messages to movie quotes and song lyrics. But as with all cliches, this simple sentence holds an essence of truth.
Whether it’s about not having learned how to ride a bicycle or why they’re having trouble sticking with piano lessons, many people with fixed mindsets often explain away their failures or lack of motivation to improve by telling themselves, “that’s not who I am.” But that only serves to limit themselves, or worse, convince themselves that they should just drop it altogether. Which can be a pity if it’s something that they are genuinely interested in. If your child is experiencing these feelings of doubt, do take the time to remind them that if they set their heart and mind into it, they can accomplish anything. It’s not about whether they’re gifted enough; it’s about whether they want it badly enough.
#2: Teach your child to view failure as a stepping stone to success.
Besides gaining the self-confidence needed to start pursuing their goals relentlessly, you should also remind your child that setbacks are just part of the process and that it doesn’t reflect on their abilities.
“I can’t do this! This is too hard!” You may have heard your child say that when learning something challenging. These are valuable signals for you to help your child view failure as an important step in learning. One way to change their mind is to suggest reframing their thinking by adding the word yet at the end of a sentence, “I can’t do this yet.”
It’s easy to think of failure as a sign that one would be better off abandoning their goals since it’s impossible for them, but that would be the wrong approach to take. Having a growth mindset means taking failure in stride and incorporating it as just another learning experience on the road to success.
#3: Share inspiring stories of growth and failure with your child
Albert Einstein's school teachers viewed him as a distracted, poor learner. They favoured rote learning over reason, which made him an imperfect learner. In truth, he excelled in science and mathematics, as his curiosity to learn was greater than his frustration at failing.
It took him 10 years before he was able to fully develop the general theory of relativity, which brought him the Nobel Prize in 1921. Today, scientists agree that his theory was groundbreaking and reshaped theoretical physics.
There is also the story about 16-year-old Jessica Watson, who circumnavigated the world alone on her sailboat for six months in 2009. She encountered many storms, and her boat was tipped over seven times. But she wanted to challenge the common perceptions of what ‘little girls’ like her can be capable of, and she eventually did what she set out to do.
In both stories, both Albert Einstein and Jessica Watson faced great odds when they were working towards their goal. Many people were sceptical about their abilities, but still they pushed on, until their naysayers had no choice but to acknowledge their success.
It’s stories like these that remind our children, as well as ourselves, that as long as we believe in ourselves and our ability to excel, no amount of ridicule and doubt by others can affect our chances of success. To help get your child into a growth mindset, try to seek out similar stories for them to draw inspiration from, and help them learn about how great minds approach and surpass their challenges.
Cultivating a growth mindset with Geniebook
Suppose that your child has started to embrace a growth mindset. Great! Now what?
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