Do you believe that a person’s abilities are fixed and that innate talent determines success or do you believe that through hard work and dedication, a person can develop traits such as intelligence? If you agree with the latter view, then you have a growth mindset! Here at HiIQ we have seen firsthand how effort and perseverance lead to achievement. When children are taught that they can cultivate their abilities, are praised for effort and encouraged to take academic risks, they develop a growth mindset.

In a 2007 landmark study, Carol Dweck, a Stanford University professor, found that teaching students about how intelligence is flexible was beneficial in their learning. Two groups of middle school students participated in an 8 week intervention program. The test group received instruction on study skills and how the brain and intelligence are malleable; whereas the control group learned study skills alone. At the conclusion of the program, the researchers found that the test group outperformed the control group. Dweck concluded that motivation was the most important factor. (More info on study here)

People who have a growth mindset are also more resilient. They view mistakes and challenges as learning opportunities; whereas those with a fixed mindset fear that making an error will mean they are not longer smart.

So how can you help your child develop a growth mindset?

1. Be Explicit

Explain how the brain is like a muscle and the more you practice something, whether it be reading, piano, or even a video game, the stronger it becomes. Tell them how the brain makes connections when you learn something new and strengthens those connections through practice. If they make a statement such as “I’m just not good at —-,” explain that it’s just because they have not yet formed those connections. Many students are currently learning about Growth Mindsets at school, but if not there are some great free resources online. You can watch this video series from Class Dojo with younger children or the Eduardo Biceno’s TED Talk, The Power of Belief – Mindset and Success, with older students. There are also several picture books centred around the growth mindset theme.

2. Be Mindful of your Praise

Although it is natural and completely normal to praise children’s abilities, it is helpful to balance those general statements with more specific praise. For example, instead of saying “You’re so good at reading!” or “You’re an amazing artist!” you could say “Wow, I like how you went back and re-read when the story did not make sense!”or “I love the colours you used in your drawing!”

Praising effort is also key, even when children are not successful. This sends the message that trying hard and challenging themselves is worthwhile, even if they are not always “right.” A significant percentage of gifted students have fixed mindsets. Dweck showed that many of these students do not take academic risks out of fear of no longer “being smart” if they are incorrect or do not receive a good mark. Reframe mistakes as learning opportunities, such as saying  “Getting that question wrong is helpful because now we have to work on your _____. ” Tell them that if they never make mistakes, the work might be too easy and they’re not giving their brain enough of a workout.

3. The Power of Yet

Finally, when you’re child says they “can’t do” or “aren’t good” at something, correct them by adding the word “yet.” This small word is incredibly powerful and it conveys your belief in their ability to succeed. In her TED Talk, Dweck illustrates how “ ‘not yet’ gives you a path into the future.” Try to be a model and use it when speaking about yourself!