The School Readiness series assists parents with building a foundation for learning and cognitive development in children ages 0 to 5, preparing them for school and lifelong success. Each article will present key concepts for learning based on research studies in early child development, as well as practical tips that can be applied immediately with young children.
What is Growth Mindset
A fixed mindset is the belief that brainpower results from genetic inheritance; intelligence and personal abilities cannot be changed. When setbacks arise, a person with a fixed beliefs may give up easily, become defensive, blame others, and worse, cheat to avoid judgment.
Conversely, a growth mindset is the belief that intelligence can be cultivated through hard work and determination. The brain can be strengthened; what matters most is the degree of effort and desire to learn. Faced with challenge, an individual with a growth mindset shows resilience with inquiries such as “what can I learn from this?”
“No matter who you are, you can always become a great deal smarter.”
(Dweck, Mind in the Making, p 280)
Carol S. Dweck, PhD at Stanford, is the chief researcher of mindset. Dr. Dweck explains that everyone has both fixed and growth mindsets and we may slip into one or the other depending on the situation. It’s helpful to recognize what triggers the fixed belief system within ourselves and our children, to be able to think through obstacles, apply effort, and learn from the experience.
Additional information about Dr. Dweck’s research is presented in Mind in the Making by Ellen Galinsky. Her book prescribes the “seven essential life skills every child needs” in school and in life. A synopsis of each skill was featured in the Mind in the Making series on the Kidsblog last year.
Dr. Galinsky confirms that new connections in the mind are formed when learning a new game or skill. Playing or doing an activity repetitively promotes elasticity of the brain; like a muscle, the brain gets stronger with use. For example, think about learning to ride a bike: it is effortful with many details to think about in the beginning, yet becomes easier over time when practiced over and over again.
Motivation also plays a key part in the performance equation. It’s important that children understand that capabilities can be developed and improved continually throughout their lives.
Tips for Parents
- Celebrate challenges as learning opportunities
- Model the need and potential to work through struggles independently. Kids watch and learn how adults around them manage difficulties
- Praise effort and the process of learning, rather than intelligence or the person. An example is “you work hard in school and it really shows”
- Offer supportive comments such as “keep trying” to normalize failure when a child attempts something new
- Considerable effort and thought may be required to adjust the language you use with a child. Ease into it by memorizing a couple phrases that will become automatic
- Aim for a child’s deep conceptual understanding over rote memorization
Another valuable way to foster a growth mindset is by sharing stories. Verbal or written stories provide opportunities to demonstrate values of hard work, perseverance, and resilience.
Any change may feel uncomfortable, but being mindful of these basic principles to encourage a growth belief system will serve your family well:
- Reflect on your own mindset
- Celebrate challenge
- Teach children the brain is elastic
- Praise the learning process
Stay tuned for the next post in the School Readiness series on Kidsblog!
Eisenmann, Amy. (2018, December 5). Bay Area Discovery Museum, Center for Childhood Creativity. [Infopeople webinar]
Galinsky, Ellen. Mind In The Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs. 1st ed. New York: HarperCollins, 2010.
Hadani, Helen. Center for Childhood Creativity (CCC) at the Bay Area Discovery Museum. (2016). Reimagining school readiness: a position paper with key findings.
Zero to Three. (2016, February 20). Getting ready for school begins at birth. [online article – parenting resource]