As a teacher, there is nothing harder than hearing a student say, “I’m not a writer,” or “I’m not good at math.” The reality is that every student can do math, or write, or read, or do anything. The message students should be hearing is, “you can’t do that… yet.” We call this the growth mindset.
Some of our brightest students have been told over and over that they are “smart.” They believe the reason they do well is because they are innately smart. They receive feedback such as, “You are so smart,” or “You got an A without even studying… amazing!” However, when things start to get challenging, these are the students who often shut down or express the most frustration. They avoid things that are hard because it may negatively affect their image. They believe that their success is based on talent, versus the effort put forward. These students have developed a fixed mindset.
Students who have a growth mindset know that by pairing their knowledge with perseverance and the right work, they can get smarter. They are less likely to get upset during learning experiences because they understand that these are opportunities for growth. The feedback they hear might be something like, “Wow, you worked really hard on this project. You know a lot about this topic. What new questions do you have?” This sends a positive message that effort was directly related to the learning. Students with a growth mindset might think, “I can’t do this now, however, with time and effort I bet I can figure it out.”
As you can see, the messages we send kids at a very early age can set them up for success or failure in their future. Just a subtle change in the way we talk with kids can make the difference.
Hungry for more? Check out these resources:
How Not to Talk to Your Kids, New York Magazine
The Praise a Child Should Never Hear, The Wall Street Journal
Why Praise Can Be Bad for Kids, ABC News