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Growth Mindsets

I recently found the article in which one of the leading researchers in the field of motivation, the psychologist Carol Dweck of Stanford University, was answering questions about her extensive research on “mindset.” Dr. Dweck’s research has shown that telling children they are naturally smart or gifted undermines their motivation, learning, and achievement by nurturing their “fixed mindsets.”

She divides mindset into 2 categories:

  • Fixed Mindsets: Children with fixed mindsets believe that intelligence is fixed. They think that certain people are born naturally smart and little can be done to change it. Obstacles and challenges should be avoided because appearing smart is what matters.
  • Growth Mindsets: Children with growth mindsets believe that intelligence is malleable. With the right kind of effort and grit, it is possible to become smarter. They also believe that learning happens by taking on challenges.

Research indicates that children with growth mindsets try harder, take on challenges more willingly, and ultimately achieve at a higher level than those with fixed mindsets.

Our teachers emphasize an individual effort and reaching for one’s personal best. We nurture children’s inner joy in the process of learning.

There are a few simple things parents can do at home to develop a child’s growth mindset:

  • Instead of praising results (“Your flower painting turned out great. You are so good at painting!), praise the process with which a child approaches a task (“Tell me about your picture. I notice a lot of blue and green. You must have worked really hard on this!”).
  • Frame challenges and obstacles in a positive way for children. Emphasize that challenges make our brains stronger and allow us to learn. Practice is how we become more capable, even if we stumble at first. Talk about your own experience learning something and highlight that by practice you improved at it. Encourage your child to “give it a go, and see what happens.”
  • Here are several books appropriate for preschoolers that feature characters exhibiting growth mindsets: One Morning in MaineYou Will be my FriendLively Elizabeth, and The Carrot Seed